Boris Johnson has apologised for remarks he made about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman currently being held in Iran. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Tehran for the past 18 months, was jailed for five years on allegations of spying and attempting to topple the Iranian regime.

In the last several days, Mr Johnson - currently Britain's foreign secretary - claimed that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "training journalists" while in Tehran, something which was taken as official confirmation from British authorities to help back up their arrest.

However, Mr Johnson has since retracted his claims, saying that she was not there in any kind of official capacity,

Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr. Johnson said:

“Insofar that people got a different impression, it was my mistake, I should have been clearer ... I apologise for the distress and anguish caused to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. Our priority now is to do everything we can to get her out of Iran on humanitarian grounds.”

Diplomatic protection

Mr. Johnson also noted that, after speaking with Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, he would discuss the idea of giving her diplomatic protection when he next meets with the foreign affairs select committee. He said he had already written to the committee in order to correct his remarks.

Discussing his meeting with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Mr Johnson also noted that he had asked for the woman's release on humanitarian grounds, saying:

“He has requested to come to Tehran. I don’t know whether that will be possible but we will see what we can do...We do not normally call for the release of consular cases because very often that exacerbates their position.

But I have called for her release on humanitarian grounds.”

During his time in the House of Commons today, Mr Johnson also expressed his apology for any distress caused to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, but only after being pressed by a number of Labour MPs. The apology mainly came about after Mr Johnson returned to the House of Commons from Brussels after his shadow minister, Emily Thornberry, called for him to “simply and unequivocally” retract his remarks and apologise.

At the time, Ms Thornberry told the House of Commons:

“We know, from the evidence of Richard Ratcliffe, that when Nazanin was told of the remarks and saw how the Iranian authorities would exploit them she became hugely distressed and upset.”