British ministers face fresh criticism over handling of case of woman held in Iran

Jeremy Corbyn has said 'it's time for Boris Johnson to go' after 'embarrassing and undermining our country'

British ministers face fresh criticism over handling of case of woman held in Iran

Michael Gove (left) and Boris Johnson. Picture by: Mary Turner/PA Wire/PA Images

A British government minister has sparked fresh concerns over the fate of a British woman jailed in Iran.

Asked what charity administrator Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing when she was arrested in Tehran in 2016, Theresa May's environment minister Michael Gove answered: "I don't know."

It follows foreign secretary Boris Johnson's widely criticised claim that the 38-year-old mother was "training journalists" - which could add five years to her current 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.

After Mr Gove's remark on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove 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."

The minister was, however, swiftly criticised for the 'I don't know' remark:

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

Defending Boris Johnson - 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.

Earlier, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has 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's case, coupled with the Foreign Secretary's "colonial throwback" attitude meant he should resign.

Writing in The Observer newspaper, Mr Corbyn argued: "The foreign secretary should have the decency to say clearly and unequivocally that he was wrong and do everything possible to make sure she isn’t punished for his cavalier mistake.

"We’ve put up with him embarrassing and undermining our country through his incompetence and putting our citizens at risk for long enough. It’s time for Boris Johnson to go."