Liam Fox Warns Against ‘Overreaction’ To Boris Johnson’s Claim About Briton Jailed In Iran

Liam Fox has been condemned after he said that Boris Johnson’s claim that a British woman being held in an Iranian prison was training journalists was merely a “slip of the tongue”. There are fears Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence, could have her time in jail extended as a direct result of the foreign secretary’s comment. She was summoned to an unscheduled court hearing last weekend at which Johnson’s remarks were cited as proof that she had been engaged in “propaganda against the regime”. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family maintain she was simply on holiday in Iran to show her infant daughter Gabriella to her grandparents. But Fox told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that any blame should rest with Iran not with Johnson. “We all make slips of the tongue and we have got to be very careful that we are not over reacting to this,” the international trade secretary said. He added to Sky News: “I think what we are seeing here is an attempt to discredit the foreign secretary without thinking first of all what the impact may be and what excuses it may give to the Iranian regime to act improperly.” Labour MP Tulip Siddiq told HuffPost UK she was “shocked and dismayed” by Fox’s comments. Johnson is expected to call Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday morning. He is also facing demands to publically correct what he said in an effort to prevent her sentence being lengthened by an extra five years. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told the BBC this morning he wanted Johnson to retract what he said in parliament “and say clearly that Nazanin wasn’t training journalists and that she was just there on holiday”. “I have promised Nazanin that it’s still possible that they will be home for Christmas. I’m still battling on those terms,” he said. Johnson told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee last week: “When I look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it. “(Neither) Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her family has been informed about what crime she has actually committed. And that I find extraordinary, incredible.” The Thomson Reuters Foundation, which employs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has urged Johnson to correct his “serious mistake”. Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Johnson should quit if his actions have damaged Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prospects of freedom. Siddiq, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lives, said: “I am in equal measure shocked and dismayed by Liam Fox’s comments this morning. “To say that we shouldn’t ‘over-react’ to Boris’s grave error simply shows him as another government minister who is ignorant to the details of this young mother’s tragic case.” Conservative MP Anna Soubry said Johnson’s actions were “appalling”. Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas said Johnson “must be sacked”. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Last week’s remarks by the Foreign Secretary provide no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”