Pressure on ministers as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe set to begin hunger strike
Ministers are under pressure to increase efforts to secure the release of a British-Iranian mother detained in Tehran as she was due to begin a hunger strike.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was to start an initial three-day fast on Monday in protest against being denied medical care in Iran’s Evin prison.
The 40-year-old, of Hampstead, north-west London, has been detained for more than 1,000 days, having been accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies.
Human rights charity Redress renewed calls for the Government to end her “appalling” treatment by taking “immediate steps to secure her release”, including by 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.
Redress director Rupert Skilbeck said: ““We are gravely concerned about the mental and physical impact that Nazanin’s prolonged and unjustified imprisonment is having on her.
“Any new denials of her right to medical care further worsen the ongoing serious violations of her human rights.
“The UK Government should assert Nazanin’s rights under international law to obtain reparation on her behalf – including her release.”
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation charity, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on April 3 2016 and was sentenced to five years in jail.
She has been suffering mental and physical health complaints during her detention.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has long campaigned for her release, said she been refused medical attention for lumps in her breasts, neurological care for pains in her limbs and access to an external psychiatrist.
The first wave of her strike – alongside Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who is also detained in Evin – was to last three days.
But she will consider extending it if her demands to see a doctor are not met.
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.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation chief executive Monique Villa has said it is “extremely shocking” to see a “totally innocent” employee begin such a drastic protest.