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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Briton jailed in Iran talked out of hunger strike

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to jail after three days with her daughter

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe embraces her daughter Gabriella during her brief period of freedom. AFP
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe embraces her daughter Gabriella during her brief period of freedom. AFP

British detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was talked out of going on a hunger strike after being returned to an Iranian jail prison following a short period of freedom with her young daughter.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, collapsed in prison and suffered from panic attacks and dizziness after her three-day furlough was not extended by the regime, her husband said.

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The family blamed “power games” within the regime and between the UK and Tehran for her ongoing detention.

The UK-based charity worker was arrested in April 2016 at Tehran airport and later jailed at a secret trial for plotting against the state, charges her supporters say were fabricated.

In an open letter to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe wished she had never been released late last month and had felt like a paraded captive.

Mr Ratcliffe said he had not received a response from Mr Zarif but is seeking a meeting at the UN General Assembly this month when she will have spent 900 days in custody.

Mr Ratcliffe has not seen his wife since she was arrested as he has not been given a visa by the Iranian authorities. Their daughter Gabriella, 4, has remained with his wife’s Iran-based parents and was able to spend several days with her mother last month.

He said the family was terrified when Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke of going on a hunger strike and she was talked out of it. The family had hoped her leave from prison would have been extended in line with the treatment of other detainees.

Despite the setback, Mr Ratcliffe said he was confident the UK's new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was strongly backing their cause. Mr Hunt's predecessor, Boris Johnson, was accused of worsening Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's plight after wrongly claiming she was in Iran to train journalists as part of her work with the charity wing of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

His comments were seized on by Iranian state media to accuse her of fomenting revolution in the country. Mr Johnson later apologised and said she was there to visit family.

“He’s issued statements saying he thought she was innocent,” Mr Ratcliffe said of Mr Hunt. “He's been as strong as we could have wanted.

"It feels like she's got a big brother in the playground,” he told Sky News. “It feels like we've got a more strident tone being taken from the foreign secretary."

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