British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran ends hunger strike

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned since 2016 on sedition charges she denies, began refusing food over two weeks ago.

    Ratcliffe also ended his hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]
    Ratcliffe also ended his hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London [File: Peter Nicholls/Reuters]

    Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran since 2016 on sedition charges she denies, has ended a hunger strike aimed at pushing for her release, according to her husband.

    Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old charity worker with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, began the hunger strike more than two weeks ago, on her daughter Gabriella's fifth birthday.

    Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, told BBC Radio that he had spoken to his wife on Saturday and she was ending the action.

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    "She's decided to stop her hunger strike," he said. "She said that in fact she'd had some breakfast this morning," added Ratcliffe.

    "I'm relieved because I wouldn't have wanted her to push it much longer."

    Ratcliffe, who has been leading a campaign to try to win his wife's release from prison, also ended his hunger strike, in solidarity with Zaghari-Ratcliffe, outside the Iranian embassy in London.

    Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she headed back to the United Kingdom with her daughter after a family visit. She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment.

    Her family and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, deny the charge.

    Ratcliffe urged the next British prime minister to make her case a priority.

    "My job would be, whoever the prime minister is, to push very hard for Nazanin's case," Ratcliffe told the AFP news agency.

    "It is not my job to play politics between who should be prime minister or not ... but to make sure that Nazanin's case is top priority."

    Boris Johnson, a former UK foreign secretary who is seen as the favourite to become Britain's prime minister when the ruling Conservative Party elects its new leader next month, attracted criticism in 2017 for appearing to jeopardise Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case when he suggested at a parliamentary hearing that she had been training journalists in Iran prior to her arrest. Johnson later apologised for his comments.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies