Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s hunger strike begins

Jailed British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone on hunger strike over a lack of medical treatment and Tehran trying to pressure her into spying on Britain, her husband has said.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another detainee began the protest on Monday after prison authorities failed to convince them they would get specialist care, Richard Ratcliffe told reporters.

He said the initial three-day fast was also motivated by Iranian Revolutionary Guard interrogators’ attempts to pressure her into becoming a spy for Iran in late December.

Ministers are under pressure to secure the release of the charity worker, 40, who has been detained in Evin prison for more than 1,000 days on spying charges, which she vehemently denies.

Mr Ratcliffe, who has long campaigned for her release, said she has been refused medical attention for lumps in her breasts, neurological care for pains in her limbs and access to an external psychiatrist.

He told a press conference: “What really pushed her over the edge was they tried to make her become a spy for Iran against the UK.

“She was told it would be safer for her and safer for her family afterwards if she agreed to do this.

“She was told to think about it and that they would return. She has been terrified ever since.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Specifically, they wanted her to spy on the Department for International Development, he said.

He confirmed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, of Hampstead, north-west London, started the strike on Monday morning after speaking with her on the phone.

It comes as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt summoned the Iranian ambassador to the UK to the Foreign Office to discuss the case, the BBC reported.

On Sunday, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow prisoner Narges Mohammedi met with Abbas Khani, the head of the clinic at Evin Prison, located in the outskirts of the country’s capital, but failed to get written assurances regarding treatment.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been subjected to grave violations of her fundamental rights by #Iran this is, in legal terms, an injury to the #UK itself @theresa_may You Must Save #freeNazanin Life @Jeremy_Hunt@AlistairBurtUK Grant #DiplomaticProtection

— Karen Barber (@KarenBa10864733) January 14, 2019

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation charity, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on April 3 2016 and sentenced to five years in jail.

She has suffered mental and physical health complaints during her detention.

The first wave of her strike was to last three days, but she will consider extending it if her demands to see a doctor are not met.

Monique Villa, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation said denying medical access was a “kind of very slow torture”.

She added that her employee has suffered “severe depression” in custody and reiterated she is not guilty of espionage.

Human rights charity Redress renewed calls for the Government to end Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “appalling” treatment by taking “immediate steps to secure her release”, including granting her diplomatic protection.

The Foreign Office said Jeremy Hunt is considering whether to take this course of action, having discussed it with her husband.

Mr Ratcliffe and Mr Hunt are also scheduled to meet on Monday afternoon.

Redress argues that her release should be secured by Britain granting her diplomatic protection, a process under international law that states can enact to obtain repatriation for an illegal act against one of their nationals.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The Foreign Secretary has discussed this issue with Richard Ratcliffe, and is keen to take a decision as soon as possible.

“We continue to take action on all our consular cases in Iran in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.”