Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 September 2019

British couple end hunger strike over Iran detention

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison

Richard Ratcliffe previously held a hunger strike outside Iran's London embassy over his wife's treatment. EPA
Richard Ratcliffe previously held a hunger strike outside Iran's London embassy over his wife's treatment. EPA

Imprisoned British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has ended her hunger strike on Saturday as she entered the third week without food.

Thousands of miles away, her husband Richard Ratcliffe has also ended his hunger strike protest outside the Iranian embassy in London.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe began her protest over her ongoing detention in Iran's notorious Evin prison in Tehran and was joined by her husband who said he wouldn’t eat solid food again until his wife did.

Mr Ratcliffe told BBC Radio 4 that his wife had eaten some porridge and fruit.

“I had a phone call this morning and it’s good news. She’s decided to stop her hunger strike, which means that I’ll be stopping it,” he told the station. “I’m relieved because I wouldn’t have wanted her to push it much longer.”

He said he had been struggling without food “but I’m sure it was much harder for her.”

Mr Ratcliffe told the press last week that he felt sluggish and slow but was determined to keep up the protest. His sister, a doctor, and other family members were monitoring his health.

“When it comes to an end I’ve been told that I just have to get him into a taxi and go straight to A&E,” Mr Ratcliffe’s mother Barbara told The Guardian.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's local MP, Tulip Siddiq, tweeted: "It shames those in power that they had to go through that torture in the first place."

On Friday the UK's foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said his "heart breaks" for the "brave" couple and he will "continue to fight with every fibre of my being to free Nazanin."

More than 100 British MPs have visited Mr Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy over the past two weeks to show solidarity with the pair.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking the couple's infant daughter to visit her family. She was sentenced to five years for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group's philanthropic arm, she denies all charges.

Iran has so far resisted pressure to release Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, despite attempts by Mr Hunt to secure her freedom.

"Mrs Zaghari is an Iranian. She has been convicted on security charges and is spending her sentence in prison," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, was quoted as saying by the state media on Monday. "Iran does not recognise dual nationality."

Supporters have covered the metal barriers erected by the embassy last week in brightly-coloured post-it notes with messages of hope and Iranians and Londoners alike have stopped by the wish him well.

Human rights group Amnesty International arranged a singing event to mark the end of the two-week hunger strike by the couple.

Choral singers were set to gather outside the embassy to lead an open sing-a-long featuring renditions of The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song and Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.

Updated: June 29, 2019 10:28 PM

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