March 12 (UPI) -- Japan's justice minister apologized Thursday for accusing public prosecutors of fleeing from a city in Fukushima prefecture during the 2011 earthquake.
Justice Minister Masako Mori made the remark on Monday during a hearing before Japanese opposition party lawmakers, the Mainichi Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun reported.
"Prosecutors fled from the Fukushima prefecture city of Iwaki in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake, even though people still hadn't evacuated," Mori said.
"They also released more than 10 people who had been taken into custody [by the prosecutors' office] at the time without a reason before fleeing."
Mori provided the statement after a question from Hiroyuki Konishi, an independent lawmaker, regarding "changes in social conditions" that ultimately require extending the tenure of a public prosecutor, Hiromu Kurokawa. The opposition opposes the extension.
Mori, who is defending Kurokawa's extension, had also said Japan could "face great confusion in times of disaster" if prosecutors leave their office.
Mori's remarks on fleeing, which were made without providing evidence on Monday, outraged opposition lawmakers. An opposition party was in power at the time of the 2011 earthquake.
By Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe summoned his cabinet official to reprimand her. Following the meeting, Mori apologized for her comments, which were "inappropriate," reports say.
"I said something different than the findings of the justice ministry," Mori told reporters after meeting with Abe. "As a judicial official in charge of the prosecutor's office, I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate remarks and withdraw them."
Earlier on Thursday, four opposition parties in Tokyo said they would not take part in parliamentary deliberations until the Abe administration clarifies its official stance on Mori's remarks. A vote on an important bill regarding the coronavirus outbreak may have been postponed, according to reports.
Japan has also been moving forward with plans to dump radioactive water that has collected in the disaster zone since 2011.
Almost 320,000 gallons are to be released into the ocean, Deutsche Welle reported Wednesday.