AN OXFORD relative of a woman wrongly jailed in Iran has urged Boris Johnson to visit the country and secure her release in time for Christmas.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, has been held in jail in Tehran since last year, after being accused of spying and sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson was forced to apologise in the Commons after mistakenly stating that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to 'train journalists' - instead she was on holiday with her daughter Gabriella, three.

Former Headington School teacher Rosemary Gay, the aunt of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard, is urging Mr Johnson to make amends by visiting her niece-in-law and negotiating her freedom and return to the UK.

Mother-of-four Mrs Gay, 69, who lives in north Oxford with husband Colin Gay, 71, a former banker, said the family was devastated that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was still behind bars after being arrested in Iran last year when she tried to fly back to the UK.

She said: "This is causing a great deal of anguish for the whole family - Richard is my sister Barbara's son.

"We won't rest until Nazanin and Gabriella are back home in this country.

"Boris Johnson, poor man, made a mistake. It was incompetence and nothing deliberate but unfortunately it appears to have made Nazanin's situation worse.

"We would love Mr Johnson to visit her in prison and bring her and Gabriella home.

"This has taken a terrible toll on the family and everyone is doing everything they can to campaign for Nazanin - we won't rest until this is over.

"We have one goal - getting Nazanin released so she can be reunited with her daughter and with Richard and they can be together again as a family."

Mrs Gay praised Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran and Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds for campaigning on Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's behalf.

She added: "It is ridiculous to suggest that Nazanin is a spy - before went out to visit her parents she would go toddler groups in Hampstead where she lives with Gabriella.

"It's a ridiculous accusation but sadly she is still in prison and we want her back."

It is understood that Mr Johnson's intervention may have resulted in the Iranian authorities imposing a longer jail sentence.

Mrs Gay said Nazanin was born in Tehran and now had dual nationality.

She added: "She gets a family visit from her parents on a Sunday and she might get to see Gabriella on a Wednesday - she can phone Richard once a week."

A petition calling for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be freed now has more than one million online signatures, with a target of 1.5 million.

Other campaigning has included Mr Ratcliffe, 42, visiting the United Nations and supporters sending cards to the Iranian Embassy in London last year on Gabriella's second birthday.

Family members have also made special T-shirts and badges for campaigners and are urging people to sign the petition and share the latest developments on Facebook.

Ms Moran said comments made by Mr Johnson at a recent hearing of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was 'training journalists' during her visit to Iran had been used by the Iranian authorities in an attempt to extend Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s jail sentence.

She added: "It is clear that the Iranian regime is to blame for the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but it is simply not acceptable for Boris Johnson to make remarks that jeopardise the huge efforts being made to bring Nazanin back to the UK.

"I am pleased that Boris Johnson has apologised to Nazanin’s family. He must now step up the campaign and do everything possible to secure her release."

Mr Johnson said: "Of course I am sorry if any words of mine have been so taken out of context or so misconstrued as to cause any kind of anxiety for the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe."

The Foreign Secretary has now agreed to meet Mr Ratcliffe before flying out to Iran in the next few weeks.