Husband of Anglo-Iranian aid worker detained in Iran goes on hunger strike

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Richard Ratcliffe plans to spend the night in a tent outside the Foreign Office, a week after his wife lost her appeal for a second jail term in Iran.

In an online petition with more than 3.5 million signatures, Ratcliffe said he began his hunger strike, his second since 2018, to force Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government to “take responsibility” for the plight of his wife.

Tehran “remains the main aggressor in the case of Nazanin”, but “the UK is also failing us,” he said.

The reason, he said, is that his family “are caught up in a two-state dispute” over an old debt of £ 400million that London has refused to settle since the Shah’s ouster from Iran in 1979.

“Two years ago, I went on hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy, ​​on the eve of Boris Johnson taking office as prime minister,” Ratcliffe wrote.

“Two years ago, we were allowed to camp in front of the Iranian embassy for 15 days, much to their anger,” he said.

“But it brought Gabriella home,” he said, referring to the couple’s daughter, now seven, who originally traveled to Iran with her mother.

“We are now giving the UK government the same treatment,” he said.

“Who takes responsibility? “

“In truth, I didn’t expect to have to go on a hunger strike twice. It’s not a normal act,” Ratcliffe said.

“It seems extraordinary the need to adopt the same tactics to persuade the government here to close the accountability gap.

“It is increasingly clear that the Nazanin case could have been resolved several months ago, but for other diplomatic agendas,” he said.

“The Prime Minister (Johnson) has to take responsibility for this. To whom is the government answerable for the choices it makes? Who takes responsibility?”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 43-year-old project manager, who lived in London with her husband and daughter, has been detained in Iran since 2016 and served a five-year sentence.

At the end of April, she was sentenced to an additional year in prison and banned from leaving the country for another 12 months.

Her family fear she will soon return to prison, which she was allowed to leave with an electronic bracelet in March 2020 amid concerns over Covid-19.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of several Western passport holders held by Iran in what rights groups condemn as a hostage-taking policy aimed at securing concessions from foreign powers.

The project manager of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news agency and data firm, was arrested in April 2016 while visiting his family.

She was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the regime, a charge she vigorously denied.

She served that sentence in March this year, before being sentenced to another one-year prison term for “propaganda against the system”.

Then-British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the second sentence, saying Iran’s treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe amounted to torture and that she was being held unlawfully.

(AFP)

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