Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Husband goes on hunger strike to pressure UK government

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The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran for more than five years, went on hunger strike on Sunday calling on the UK government to step up efforts for her release.

Richard Ratcliffe started his fast on Sunday outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London.

In an update to his change.org petition he explained that his hunger strike “comes in response to Nazanin’s latest conviction.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual national charity worker, served five years in prison after being taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 and convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.

In May, she was sentenced to an additional year in prison on charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for having participated in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009 — a decision upheld this month by an appeals court. The verdict includes a one-year travel ban, meaning she wouldn’t be able to leave Iran until 2023.

Ratcliffe wrote that he has spoken to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss about the latest development in his wife’s case and was told that “it was not a trigger point to act. That would be when Nazanin was returned to prison.”

“For us, reimprisonment is too late, it would mean not seeing Nazanin until 2023.”

“Just prior to the news, we had a very bleak meeting with the Foreign Office, ending with me telling them I had no confidence in their strategy and their reluctance to act,” he wrote.

Ratcliffe went on a 15-day hunger strike two years ago outside the Iranian Embassy, a move he credits with getting their 7-year-old daughter Gabriella released.

“We are now giving the U.K. government the same treatment. In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act,” he added.

He said Iran remains the “primary abuser” in Nazanin’s case, but the “U.K. is also letting us down.”

“It is increasingly clear that Nazanin’s case could have been solved many months ago – but for other diplomatic agendas. The PM needs to take responsibility for that.”

Euronews has contacted the British Foreign Office for comment.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and was arrested as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family. Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation said in a statement on Twitter that they are “deeply saddened that for the second time in two years, Richard Ratcliffe has gone on hunger strike to demand justice for his wife and our colleague Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe.”

Iran doesn’t recognise dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe can’t receive consular assistance.

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