Richard Ratcliffe, husband of woman detained in Iran, ends 21-day hunger strike

LONDON – The husband of a British-Iranian woman who has been detained in Iran for more than five years said Saturday that he was ending his hunger strike outside the UK Foreign Office after 21 days.

Richard Ratcliffe slept in a tent in front of the main entrance to the Foreign Office to put pressure on the British government to obtain the release of his wife and other British-Iranian nationals in custody. He started his demonstration last month after his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe lost her last appeal in Iran.

“We were probably hoping we’d get a breakthrough in that. We haven’t got that yet, ”said Ratcliffe. “I didn’t want to go out in the ambulance. I want to go out with my head held high. “

Ratcliffe said he had a pain in his feet overnight and talking to a doctor persuaded him to end the hunger strike. He said he planned to go to a hospital for a check-up and hoped to eat afterwards.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe served five years in prison after she was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 and convicted of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s not-for-profit arm, and was arrested when she returned to the UK after visiting her family. Human rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual citizenship as a bargaining chip for money or influence in negotiations with the West, which Tehran denies.

In May, she was sentenced to another year in prison for spreading “anti-system propaganda” for participating in a 2009 protest outside the Iranian embassy in London – an annual travel ban, which means she will not be able to leave Iran until 2023 .

Her husband appeared depressed after meeting with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Thursday after talks with Iranian officials in London.

After describing his meeting with Cleverly as “depressing”, Ratcliffe said he was close to the end of his hunger strike “as a strategy.”

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