British govt accused of hurting case of woman jailed in Iran


British govt accused of hurting case of woman jailed in Iran

The Associated Press
FILE – In this file photo dated Friday, Oct. 27 2017, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gestures during a joint news conference with Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva following their meeting at the Necessidades palace, the Portuguese foreign ministry, in Lisbon. Johnson and Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of British woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who remains imprisoned in Iran, spoke by phone Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, but did not release details of the conversation. (AP Photo/Armando Franca, FILE)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke Sunday to the husband of a British woman imprisoned in Iran as pressure mounted on the Conservative government to step up efforts to free her.

The Foreign Office confirmed that Johnson and Richard Ratcliffe spoke by phone, but did not elaborate further.

Ratcliffe has previously urged Johnson to travel to Tehran to press for the release of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian citizen in her 30s, is serving a five-year sentence for plotting the "soft toppling" of Iran's government.

Earlier this month, Johnson told lawmakers that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "teaching people journalism" when she was detained last year. Her family and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, insist she is innocent, and was on vacation taking her toddler daughter to meet relatives in Iran.

Johnson later apologized for his comment, but Iran's state broadcaster said it was an implicit admission of guilt.

On Sunday, British Environment Secretary Michael Gove said "I don't know" when asked what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.

Family and friends say the confusion has put Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk of a longer prison sentence.

Johnson's blunder has triggered calls for his resignation.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Prime Minister Theresa May should fire Johnson for "embarrassing and undermining our country with his incompetence and colonial throwback views and putting our citizens at risk."

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