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UK's Boris Johnson apologizes over Zaghari-Ratcliffe gaffe

Posted November 13, 2017 10:09 a.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2017 11:07 a.m. EST

— British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been forced to apologize for a gaffe that campaigners fear could worsen the situation for a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Tehran.

Johnson said he was sorry for suggesting that Nazanin Zagahri-Radcliffe had been teaching journalism during a visit to the country in 2016, when she was arrested. Zagahri-Radcliffe was on holiday, he told the UK Parliament.

"That was the sole purpose of her visit," Johnson told the House of Commons on Monday.

"I apologize to Mrs Zagahri-Radcliffe and her family if I inadvertently caused them any further anguish."

Johnson told a British parliamentary committee last week that Zagahri-Ratcliffe hahd been teaching journalists. He later clarified that she was in the country visiting relatives. But the opposition Labour party said his "clarification" was insufficient and forced him to appear in the House of Commons on Monday.

Johnson added: "Of course I apologize for the distress, for the suffering that has been caused by the impression that I gave that the government believed, that I believed, that she was there in a professional capacity. I do apologize."

Zagahri-Ratcliffe has been in jail since she was detained at Tehran airport in April 2016, and there have been concerns that Johnson's remarks may lead to an extension to her five-year sentence.

Calls for Prime Minister Theresa May to sack Johnson over the gaffe are growing among members of the Labour party.