Richard Ratcliffe outside UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office in Downing Street, on Day 4 of his hunger strike. KL./

By Natasha Phillips


The British government will not revise its strategy to secure the release of the detained British-Iranian Nazanin-Zaghari Ratcliffe from Iran, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said hours after meeting with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in London.

The hourlong meeting on Oct. 28 was held at the Foreign Office in London, and was also attended by Britain’s Minister for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, and by Robert Macaire, the former UK ambassador to Iran.Also present at the meeting were lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, Ratcliffe’s father and uncle, and Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s attorneys.

The meeting came after Ratcliffe staged a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office to protest his wife’s continued detention in Iran.

“The government wasn’t willing to change anything in its approach, which is astonishing,” Ratcliffe told Kayhan Life in an interview. “They just said it was doing what it could, and had to think about all options, but needed to be careful of negative consequences.”

Ratcliffe said he would continue his hunger strike.

It began outside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office on Downing Street on Oct. 24 to protest the UK government’s lack of progress with Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

The mother of one has been repeatedly detained for more than 5 years by the Iranian government on charges which the US, the UK and lawmakers have called “baseless.”

Most recently, on April 26, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to a year in prison and received a 12-month travel ban for spreading propaganda against the regime. She has previously served a five-year sentence in full after having been found guilty of “plotting to topple the Iranian government.”

Iranian officials have alerted Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe to the new sentence but have not yet summoned her back to prison. Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently staying with her parents in Tehran and is under house arrest.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention has been linked to an estimated $557 million legally owed by the UK government to Iran. The debt is related to an order for tanks placed by the Shah of Iran shortly before the 1979 Iranian revolution, which was never fulfilled. A statement by former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on March 10 suggested that Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be freed if the UK paid the money it owed.

Iran Hostage Release Must Be Part of Nuclear Deal, Richard Ratcliffe Says

An online petition published by Ratcliffe on the first day of the hunger strike made four demands to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Those demands included settling the debt and sanctioning Iranian officials responsible for his wife’s ongoing detention.

The petition also asked the UK government to acknowledge that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other unjustly detained dual nationals should be categorized as hostages. The petition will be delivered to the government on Oct. 29 after amassing more than 4.5 million signatures.

“We asked what was happening with the debt, we asked about what they’re doing to challenge Iran’s hostage taking and got told nothing, just that the situation was complicated and we can’t tell you any more,” Ratcliffe said after his meeting with Truss. “When I said: ‘If you keep going down the same path, Nazanin is going to end up in prison, nobody responded to that directly.”

Ratcliffe said that a previous argument by the UK Home Office — that the debt money could be used to fund terror — was flawed: “This is not a legally defensible position, because if you’re doing business with the Iranian government anyway, that money could also end up in bad hands.”

An urgent question submitted to the UK parliament by British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq on Oct. 25 asked the government to comment on the latest developments in Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

Responding to the question, Cleverly said Nazanin’s ongoing detention was “indefensible and unacceptable.”

Commenting on the unjust detentions of all British dual nationals in Iran, Cleverly said their safety and welfare remained “a top priority for the UK Government,” but would not acknowledge that Nazanin was being held hostage by the Iranian government when asked by Ms. Siddiq to do so.

Ratcliffe said he spoke to Nazanin who was  “fearful about me being on hunger strike and how this is affecting our daughter Gabriella, but I think that if we’re here, then she’s less likely to be recalled to prison. The strike also puts pressure on the British government to resolve the matter,” he said.

This is Ratcliffe’s second hunger strike in two years. The first one, in 2019, lasted 15 days, and stopped when his wife’s own hunger strike in prison came to an end. Gabriella, who is now seven-years-old, has been visiting her father in Downing Street.

“Gabriella seems fine at the moment. She was organizing some running races last night. The first day when we were doing stone painting was quite fun. Wednesday was better because we were decorating the camp,” Ratcliffe said.

“Gabriella was a bit unsettled the night before I started,” he added. We’ll have to see how the hunger strike develops because obviously as time goes on we’ll need to protect her from the effects of the strike. It becomes more like visiting a relative in hospital who’s poorly, which would be upsetting.”

Enlarge

2021-09-23T103529Z_1625651787_MT1SIPA000OYBUDJ_RTRMADP_3_SIPA-USA-scaled

FILE PHOTO: Gabriella Ratcliffe is seen holding a photo herself with her parents during a meeting with journalists that took place at Parliament Square to mark Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's 2000th day of being detained in Iran. (Photo by Thomas Krych. REUTERS./

Similar Articles to This Post