Writing in The Scotsman, the former Tory MEP Struan Stevenson launches a scathing attack on the way the UK government ministers have reacted to the predicament of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the innocent 38-year-old mother languishing in Tehran’s Evin prison. He also accuses the Foreign Office of “cringing appeasement” towards Iran and failing to recognise the brutality of its regime.
Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has been criticised for suggesting Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists on her trip to Iran – a remark which caused concern that she would be made to serve a longer sentence.
Iranian state TV seized on the comments as an “unintended confession”, prompting fears they would be used by the Iranian authorities to justify her continued imprisonment over spying allegations.
Mr Johnson, who is facing calls to quit as Foreign Secretary over the controversy, has since been forced to apologise and say that she was solely on holiday.
Mr Gove was drawn into the row following an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. Asked what she had been doing in Iran, Mr Gove replied: “I don’t know” adding there was “no reason Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be in prison in Iran so far as any of us know”.
He went on to say her husband was the person who would know and he would take his assurance that she was on holiday. Mr Gove has been accused of being more interested in protecting Mr Johnson than securing Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s freedom.
Mr Stevenson writes: “Gove and Johnson should wake up to the predicament in which their smug, complacent remarks have placed Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Many women have been executed in Iran for lesser offences.”
He goes on to claim the Foreign Office’s “cringing appeasement of the mullah’s regime is why successive British governments have always placed trade and lucrative commercial contracts ahead of human rights. Their arrogant and complacent approach to one of the world’s most cruel and tyrannical regimes is why Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been allowed to languish in Evin prison for 19 months.”
Meanwhile, a former key aide of Theresa May has launched a strongly worded attack on Chancellor Philip Hammond’s abilities ahead of next week’s Budget. Mrs May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy claimed Mr Hammond lacks the imagination and desire to help ordinary people.