Political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard stands outside the Iranian Embassy in London with a photo of his wife and daughter
Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a political prisoner in Iran since April 2016, has begun another hunger strike.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has joined her in the strike, in a tent outside the Iranian Embassy in London, as he seeks her unconditional release from a five-year sentence for espionage.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was seized at an airport as she and her infant daughter were leaving Tehran after visiting relatives.
No substantial evidence was ever publicly presented in the case, but subsequent State TV “documentaries” tied the prosecution to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employment for BBC Media Action in 2009-2010.
The BBC project trains journalists overseas. However, the Iranian regime, which has long pressed BBC Persian by harassing and threatening its staff and their relatives, converted Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s administrative post into one of developing reporters to seek the overthrow of the Islamic Republic amid mass protests over the disputed 2009 Presidential election.
Earlier this year Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow political prisoner Narges Mohammadi, of the Iranian Center for Defenders for Human Rights, went on hunger strike until Iranian authorities finally gave them access to essential medical care.
In late April, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif raised the prospect of a swap of Zaghari-Ratcliffe for Iranians held in US prisons, but he was immediately pulled back by other regime factions.
See Iran Daily, Jan 18: After Hunger Strike, Political Prisoners Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mohammadi Get Access to Medical Care
Iran Daily, April 26: Regime Slaps Down Zarif Talk of “Swap” for Political Prisoner Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Asked what he expects from Iranian officials, Richard Ratcliffe said:
The message from Nazanin is: enough is enough. I think she wanted to make it clear to the authorities in prison that this can’t go on.
My job in campaigning is always to amplify her message and to make it visible. That’s partly why I’m here, making it really clear.
But he added a limit to the strike because of their 5-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who is still with her grandmother in Iran, “We are both parents to Gabriella and obviously it’s important that this doesn’t go to the bitter end.”
Radcliffe said he spoke to Nazanin on Saturday: “I spoke to her yesterday. She was calm, she said she had started doing it and we’ll see how long it lasts.”
In March the UK Government gave diplomatic protection to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but London has been unable to get any movement in the case. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sunday, “Sometimes, you hear signals from the Iranian regime that they want to resolve this issue, and sometimes they seem to go hard line.”
Far from relenting, Iranian officials continued pressure on British institutions, last month sentencing Aras Amiri, an employee of the British Council, to 10 years in prison. Amiri was detained in April 2018 as she was visiting relatives in Iran.
Other foreign and dual nationals held by Iran include:
*Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, 82, a former UN official, both condemned to 10 years
*American Xijue Wang, a Ph.D. candidate in history, also serving 10 years
*Iranian-American-British environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, arrested with eight colleagues in January 2018
*American navy veteran Michael White, imprisoned in July 2018
*Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmedreza Djalali, sentenced to death
*Austrian-Iranian IT specialist Kamran Ghaderi, serving 10 years.
Lebanese businessman Nizar Zakka was freed last week after serving one-third of a 10-year sentence.