The hunger-striking husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman held in Iran for five years, says the British government is not doing enough to secure his wife’s release.
Richard Ratcliffe began a hunger strike on October 24 outside the Foreign Office in London to highlight his wife's situation, a week after she lost her appeal on a second prison term in Iran.
“We pushed the British government to act, and they wouldn't do anything until Nazanin goes to prison,” Ratcliffe told RFE/RL on November 1.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of a number of Western passport holders being held by Iran in what rights groups condemn as a policy of hostage-taking aimed at winning concessions from foreign powers.
A project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency and data firm's philanthropic arm, she was detained at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she headed back to Britain with her daughter following a family visit.
She was sentenced to prison after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment following what Amnesty International called a “deeply unfair trial.”
In April, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to another year of imprisonment on charges of "spreading propaganda against the system” and banned from leaving the country.
She was allowed in March 2020 to live under home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but her family now fears she will soon return to prison after losing an appeal.
“The reason we started doing [the protest] now is precisely because the Iranian authorities said: 'Listen, your appeal has failed. You'll be going to prison soon. We will call you,’” Ratcliffe said.
"As many Iranian listeners will know, there is a tremendous anxiety that it has produced from the way the Iranian prison system works,” he said. “So this is an anxious time and there are reasons to be anxious.”
During the hunger strike, Ratcliffe has met with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the mayor of London, and members of parliament.
The Foreign Office said it would "continue to press Iran" on securing the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe went on a 15-day hunger strike two years ago outside the Iranian Embassy, a move he credits with getting their young daughter released.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe hasn’t seen her daughter in two years.