Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband ends London hunger strike

Richard Ratcliffe went without food for three weeks to protest against wife's detention in Iran

Richard Ratcliffe spent his 21-day hunger strike camped outside the UK's Foreign Office. PA
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Richard Ratcliffe has ended his three-week hunger strike in London over the detention in Iran of his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

He said he would go to hospital for a full check up after camping outside the UK’s Foreign Office for 21 days without food.

“Today I have promised Nazanin to end the hunger strike. Gabriella needs two parents,” he said, referring to their young daughter.

“Thank you all for your overwhelming care these past three weeks."

He began the protest after Iranian authorities rejected Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s latest appeal against her sentence.

The British-Iranian charity worker has been held in Iran since 2016 after being found guilty of plotting against the regime, something she, her supporters and the UK government vehemently deny.

She was visiting her parents with Gabriella when she was arrested.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released from prison and placed under house arrest in March 2020, but in April was sentenced to another year in jail. She is currently living with her parents in Tehran.

Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and why is she being held by Iran?

Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and why is she being held by Iran?

Supporters link her plight to a decades-old debt of about £400 million ($536.6m) the UK owes Iran after an aborted arms deal before the 1979 revolution.

Mr Ratcliffe, who was joined by seven-year-old daughter Gabriella on Saturday, said of his time camped out: “It’s been a lovely experience emotionally. Tough physically. But yeah, I think it probably is the right time to end it.”

He offered a “warm thank-you” to everyone who has supported him.

“I wouldn’t have got through this alone,” he said. “Such an experience of kindness. I have been humbled by the care we’ve received.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stopped to visit him earlier, and one other Government minister has come to see him, but he acknowledged he has seen more people from the Labour benches during the demo.

“We’ve certainly not had the Prime Minister come. And yes, I do think he has the capacity to do a disappearing act.

“I think his absence this past three weeks is telling. His absence on Nazanin’s case since he became Prime Minister is reasonably telling,” he said.

Mr Ratcliffe said he may have been “naïve”, but said: “I did expect he would step up and sort it and he would deliver on the promises he made as foreign secretary once he had the power to do so.”

Earlier on Saturday, Mr Ratcliffe’s local MP Tulip Siddiq tweeted: “It has been three weeks since Richard Ratcliffe last ate any food.

“In that time, not a single Government Minister has visited his camp outside the Foreign Office in solidarity.

“Will the Prime Minister take 5 minutes out of his day to visit my constituent today?”

Mr Ratcliffe said he backed Ms Siddiq’s view and said it is “probably too late” for Mr Johnson to visit him now, and he added that his wife has also requested a phone call from the Prime Minister.

Ms Siddiq said she has been in touch with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who she said is “worried sick” about her husband.

Ms Siddiq said: “It has been agonising to watch my constituent starve himself for so long and put himself deliberately in harm’s way.

“Richard has shown such dedication, bravery and dignity over the last three weeks, and indeed over the last five years.

“I know how proud his family are of him, and how much of an impact his personal sacrifice has had on the millions of people around the world who want to see their family reunited.”

A recent meeting with James Cleverly, the UK's Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, left Mr Ratcliffe feeling deflated and “stuck in the same status quo”.

Officials had held talks with Iranian deputy foreign minister Bagheri Kani on Thursday.

But Mr Ratcliffe said he did not feel the situation “moved forwards” and accused the UK government of not giving a “clear enough message to Iran that hostage-taking is wrong”.

Updated: November 13, 2021, 7:53 PM