Britain’s trade minister says Johnson did not make a gaffe over aid worker jailed in Iran

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British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks to reporters after chairing a United Nations Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

LONDON (Reuters) – British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson did not make a gaffe when he commented about the activities of jailed Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Britain’s trade minister Liam Fox said on Tuesday.

Johnson told the British parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Nov. 1 that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching people journalism, a statement that the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation for which she works, said was incorrect.

“I don’t believe that it is a serious gaffe. I think people in the Iranian regime … are using this as an excuse to hold a UK citizen in the most tenuous, if not illegal, circumstances,” Fox told Sky news.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, was brought into court on Saturday, three days after Johnson’s remarks, and accused by a judge of “spreading propaganda against the regime,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation said.

The charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe are denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organisation that operates independently of Reuters News.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mike Collett-White

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