Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran for five years on spying charges, recently lost her appeal against a second prison sentence. 43-year-old mother-of-one charity worker from London, has been detained in Iran since 2016 and has not seen her daughter for two years.
She has been serving the second of two prison sentences, this one on parole for a conviction of propaganda against the Iranian regime. She is staying with her mother in Iran – but is not allowed to leave the country.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe, who is on a 15 day hunger strike, said his wife was “increasingly distraught”. She now faces a return to prison. Ratcliffe said it was only a matter of time before she would be summoned back to jail.
It is the second time Ratcliffe has used the tactic, after a 15-day hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2019.
“Two years ago I went on hunger strike in front of the Iranian embassy, on the eve of Boris Johnson taking over as prime minister,” said Ratcliffe in a statement online.
“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. It seems extraordinary the need to adopt the same tactics to persuade government here, to cut through the accountability gap.” He said that although Iran remained the main country responsible, “the UK 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.”
He added: “It can be difficult to capture the feeling of a life wasting away, watching prison creep closer while we sit in the PM’s in-tray.” Ratcliffe said he was making four demands from Mr Johnson, including recognising Nazanin as a hostage, and for the UK to push for an end to hostage-taking when negotiating the Iran nuclear deal.
He also called for the government to pay the £400m debt that the UK owes Iran, dating back from a deal between the two sides over tanks in the 1970s. Ratcliffe believes his wife has been imprisoned as leverage for the debt. He spoke to the new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss earlier this month, but said he was told the government’s response was to do nothing yet until Nazanin was returned to prison. “For us, reimprisonment is too late, it would mean not seeing Nazanin until 2023,” he said.