Husband of charity worker held in Iran goes on hunger strike

Husband of charity worker held in Iran goes on hunger strike

The husband of British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone on a hunger strike again after a court decided she has to spend another year in prison.

Richard Ratcliffe started his fast on Sunday outside the British government’s Foreign Office in central London in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure her release.

“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,” Ratcliffe said.

Two years ago, he staged a 15-day hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy, a move he credits with getting their seven-year-old daughter Gabriella to leave Tehran for London.

“We are now giving the UK government the same treatment. In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act,” Ratcliffe said on his petition.

He said Iran remains the “primary abuser”, but the “UK is also letting us down”.

The family contests the ministerial refusal to pay a historical debt of 400 million pounds ($550m) to Iran that the UK government acknowledges it owes.

He plans to maintain a “constant vigil” by sleeping in a tent outside the building’s main entrance.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe 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 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.

The decision was upheld earlier this month by an appeals court. The verdict includes a one-year travel ban, meaning she will not be able to leave Iran until 2023.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and was arrested as she was returning home in the UK 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.

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities so detainees such as Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies