Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband ‘outraged’ after meeting ministers on day 20 of hunger strike

He has said he is in the last few days of his second hunger strike

Lamiat Sabin
Friday 12 November 2021 16:42
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<p>Richard Ratcliffe said he is in his ‘last few days’ of his second hunger strike </p>

Richard Ratcliffe said he is in his ‘last few days’ of his second hunger strike

The husband of a British-Iranian dual national imprisoned in Iran said on the 20th day of his hunger strike that he has felt “outraged” and “deflated” after meetings with ministers.

Richard Ratcliffe has said he felt like he was “stuck in the same status quo” after a talk with foreign minister James Cleverly on Thursday in his long-running battle to secure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s freedom.

He said he left the meeting feeling “deflated”, and accused the UK government of not doing enough to help his family.

Mr Ratcliffe told the BBC on Friday he felt “outraged” after the meeting and that his talk with Mr Cleverly felt like “a bit of a placebo”.

He said half of the meeting saw officials insisting that they were raising Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case “very strongly” with their Iranian counterparts, but claimed there was “no substance” as to what ministers were planning to do.

Sitting in his protest spot outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), he added that the government is “allowing [Iran] to take people hostage and abuse them.”

Mr Ratcliffe began his hunger strike camped outside the FCDO on 24 October after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran.

He said he was in the “last few days” of his second hunger strike – his first was in 2018 – as his “body is saying so”, but that he could decide to continue camping outside the FCDO.

Mr Ratcliffe began his hunger strike camped outside the FCDO on 24 October

Mr Ratcliffe’s latest meeting with government took place after talks between UK officials and Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

According to her family, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt.

The debt was accrued when Britain cancelled a contract for 1,500 battle tanks after the Shah was toppled in the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Mr Ratcliffe said the government “clammed up” and would not talk about the debt during his discussion with them.

But The Guardian reports, quoting Mr Bagheri Kani, that UK ministers told Iranian counterparts that it could not pay the debt because of restrictions brought about by sanctions.

Mr Bagheri Kani reportedly said the two sides had agreed a payment of less than £500m, to take interest into account, and added: “Now what the UK government are bringing up is the limitations on banking interactions, saying it is a difficulty, and finally they cannot do it.”

He claimed that the debt repayment issue was separate from the detention of British-Iranian nationals, but said: “If these incidents were resolved, it would naturally have to influence the relationship between the two countries.”

The wife of Anoosheh Ashoori, another British national detained in Iran, said her husband will be “depressed” at a lack of progress in face-to-face talks between the two nations.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sherry Izadi said the debt is not a ransom and should be paid, adding that she believes the two situations are linked.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the FCDO said Mr Bagheri Kani had been “pressed on the need for Iran to urgently release all British nationals unfairly detained in Iran”.

They added that Mr Cleverly had then met Mr Ratcliffe “to reaffirm our commitment to reuniting his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with her family in the UK”.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

She was taking the couple’s young daughter, Gabriella, to see the girl’s grandparents when she was arrested in Tehran’s airport and sentenced to five years in custody, spending four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.

The project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news agency, has strongly rejected the accusations of spying.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to another year in prison in April for participating in a 2009 rally outside the Iranian embassy in London.

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