Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband begins new hunger strike in London


Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the detained British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is beginning a hunger strike in Whitehall and has demanded the government do more to secure his wife's release.


This is the second hunger strike Mr Ratcliffe has done after a 15-day hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2019.


Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43-year, has been detained in Iran since 2016 and has not seen her daughter for two years. She has been held in Iran for five years on spying charges and recently lost her appeal against a second prison sentence.


Mr Ratcliffe said his wife was "increasingly distraught".


The Foreign Office says it will "continue to press Iran" on the issue.


Mrs Ratcliffe 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.


However she is now facing a return to prison, after losing an appeal against the most recent sentence. Mr Ratcliffe said she had already been summoned back.


Mr Ratcliffe said in a statement that two years ago, he went on hunger strike in front of the Iranian embassy, on the eve of Boris Johnson taking over as prime minister.


He added: "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 has also let them 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."


Mr Ratcliffe said he was making four demands from Mr Johnson, including recognising Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe 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.


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 Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to prison.


On Sunday, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: "Iran's decision to proceed with these baseless charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through.


They have also demanded that she be released permanently so that she can return home.


"We are doing all we can to help Nazanin get home to her young daughter and family and we will continue to press Iran on this point."