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Mother jailed in Iran ends hunger strike after 15 days

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (right) has ended her hunger strike in jail in Iran. Credit: Family handout

A British-Iranian woman currently in prison in Iran has ended her hunger strike after 15 days.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe stopped taking food in protest over her imprisonment, which she labelled "unfair", with her husband also going on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

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The 40-year-old was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying – a charge she vehemently denies.

On Saturday, her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said his wife had decided to end her protest and had eaten some porridge with apple and banana.

“It was getting hard for me but I’m sure it was much harder for her,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I’m relieved because I wouldn’t have wanted her to push it much longer.”

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His wife had come under “a lot of pressure” from prison guards to break the strike, he said, and had been feeling nauseous.

He added: “It had been a real struggle for her the last few days … I think she will go to the clinic as soon as possible.

“For me, I’m certainly more fragile but I’ve got through it.

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of detained Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, outside the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge, London Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

“My experience has been sitting on a doorstep, lots of people coming up to me with flowers and cards, so it has been emotionally great, although a physical challenge.”

Mr Ratcliffe said he believed the dual protest had been successful in raising the profile of his wife’s case, with more than 100 MPs coming to show support in person, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The father of five-year-old Gabriella said his daughter had taken the hunger strike “at face value” but “knows now that mummy and daddy are stopping”.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, holding her daughter Gabriella Credit: PA

“She pointed out to her mother this morning that she hadn’t been released yet so perhaps daddy should carry on for a bit,” he added. “But we clarified that I wouldn’t.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the hunger strike had made the case “a much bigger story” in Iran and had made Iranian diplomats in London “cross”.

“They will be in the early days of putting up a fence to block us off,” he said.

“They were tweeting us, almost trolling us, on social media and various articles claiming I was breaking the Vienna Convention.

“We have certainly got them crosser than we intended but part of the aim was to bring the problem to their doorstep so I’m glad that happened.”

Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen, criticised the "deep injustice" of the case.

Nazanin is still a prisoner of conscience, still unfairly jailed after a sham trial, and still being subjected to the torment of separation from her home and family.

This deeply troubling case urgently needs to be resolved. The Iranian authorities should finally do the right thing - release Nazanin and allow her to return home to the UK.

– Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier this year granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.