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Mother jailed in Iran ends hunger strike after 15 days

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe stopped taking food in protest at her ‘unfair imprisonment’, with her husband also on hunger strike in the UK.

Richard Ratcliffe beside a picture of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, after they both ended a hunger strike (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Richard Ratcliffe beside a picture of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, after they both ended a hunger strike (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran has ended her hunger strike after 15 days.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe stopped taking food in protest at her “unfair imprisonment”, with her husband also on a hunger strike and camped on the pavement outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

The 40-year-old was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport while travelling with their young daughter in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying – a charge she vehemently denies.

On Saturday, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said his wife had decided to end her protest and had eaten some porridge with apple and banana.

The father of five-year-old Gabriella, who has stayed in Iran with her grandparents since her mother’s arrest, told PA he was relieved his wife had decided to end her hunger strike.

He added: “I feel relieved, obviously it is hard to do it physically for me, I am sure it was much harder for her.

When you go on hunger strike you play with fire Richard Ratcliffe

“She obviously wanted to end it on her own terms, she was trying to make a clear statement that enough was enough, but it was important she didn’t take it too far for her health and for Gabriella.

“When you go on hunger strike you play with fire a bit and I hope that there are no consequences.”

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Mr Ratcliffe has held his hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge, London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife had come under “a lot of pressure” from interrogators to break her strike and had been feeling nauseous.

He told PA that although it was too early to judge the success of their actions, the couple felt they had got their point across.

He added: “It’s a bit early to know what we have achieved, obviously the demand was that she be released.

“I don’t think we were expecting that she would be released. What we were expecting was the Iranian authorities would realise it’s unacceptable to keep holding her and we need to find a way to solve this.”

Mr Ratcliffe said he believed the dual protest had been successful in raising the profile of his wife’s case, with more than 100 MPs coming to show support to him in person, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He said the backing he had received from the public had been “overwhelming” and added: “Physically this has been a tough experience, but emotionally it has been uplifting, in the middle of these dark times we have been reminded the world is a kind place.”

He said that he would be going to hospital for a check up before breaking his hunger strike.

Mr Ratcliffe said he was going to pack up his makeshift camp outside the central London embassy and give the Iranian authorities some “breathing space” to find a solution with the British Government.

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Richard Ratcliffe is hugged by his parents after ending his protest at the embassy (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He said it would be “naive” to expect Iran to release his wife while he was camped outside its embassy, but vowed to keep on campaigning.

He added: “We will move away from the pavement, and there will be breathing space for them [Iran] to find a solution with the British Government.

“But I am clear we will do something else. My job is to keep it clear that this a problem that must be solved.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the Government needed to do more to protect British citizens who were falsely imprisoned or tortured and told PA that he would raise his wife’s imprisonment with whoever became prime minister.

He added: “Whoever becomes prime minister – we will be knocking on their door”.

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Helpers remove notes stuck to a security fence around Mr Ratcliffe’s encampment (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Ratcliffe also said that Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson should take responsibility for his mistakes.

He added: “Of course it’s not all his fault, clearly we are camped here because the Iranian authorities are imprisoning Nazanin, but he should take responsibility for his mistakes because they have consequences.

“Not just the gaffe, the failure to apologise afterwards clearly made things worse.

“I think it’s bad for a PM candidate not to take responsibility for their mistakes because the most important thing for a prime minister is to take responsibility for their country.”

Mr Johnson has since apologised for saying in a speech that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran “teaching people journalism” – despite her family’s insistence that she was visiting relatives – which was used against her during her trial.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier this year granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.

Mr Hunt praised Mr Ratcliffe’s bravery on Saturday and said the whole world was standing behind him.

He tweeted: “Richard Ratcliffe’s campaign to free Nazanin has been so brave.

“By publicising the outrageous injustice of her imprisonment he has bought to global attention something that affects many others.

“One small family of 3 – with the whole world standing behind you #FreeNazanin.”

Tulip Siddiq, Labour MP for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency, Hampstead and Kilburn, tweeted: “A huge relief that Richard Ratcliffe and Nazanin have stopped their hunger strike.

“It shames those in power that they had to go through that torture in the first place. We will bring her home #FreeNazanin.”

Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, said:  “The hunger strike is over, but the deep injustice of this case isn’t.

“Nazanin is still a prisoner of conscience, still unfairly jailed after a sham trial, and still being subjected to the torment of separation from her home and family.

“This deeply troubling case urgently needs to be resolved. The Iranian authorities should finally do the right thing – release Nazanin and allow her to return home to the UK.”

PA

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