Politics

Gove: ‘I don’t know’ why jailed Briton was in Iran

Michael Gove has sparked fresh questions about the fate of a British mother jailed in Iran, appearing uncertain over why she was there.

Asked what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran when she was arrested and detained in 2016, the Environment Secretary admitted: "I don't know."

It follows Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's claim that the 38-year-old charity administrator was "training journalists" – which could add five years to her sentence.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family and employer say she was on holiday visiting family when she was arrested with her daughter at an airport in Tehran.

Image:Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in 2016

After Mr Gove's admission on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he was told her husband's explanation.

"In that case I take exactly her husband's assurance in that regard," he said.

"Her husband said she was there on holiday, and her husband is the person who should know."

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Labour's Chris Bryant said the comments were proof of an "incompetent" Government.

He told Sky News: "Boris got into trouble because he hadn't bothered to check details before he went to the Foreign Affairs select committee.

"Michael Gove must have known he would be asked that question and yet answered in that way. It's a Government of incompetence".

Mr Gove also branded the Iranians "extremists" and accused them of "harming the human rights of someone whose plight moves us all".

Boris Johnson offers some clarity to the House of Commons on his comments on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Video:Johnson 'could have been clearer' on Iran

Defending his Cabinet colleague who is facing calls to resign, he also criticised those trying to "blame politicians in a democracy who are trying to do the right thing".

"We play their game if we do anything other show than solidarity in the face of their abuse of human rights," he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard, is due to meet the Foreign Secretary on Sunday, to discuss the charges of spying and propaganda against her.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also launched a furious attack on Mr Johnson, calling on him to quit for "putting our citizens at risk".

He said the "embarrassing" behaviour over Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe case, coupled with the Foreign Secretary's "colonial throwback" attitude meant he should resign.

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