Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Richard Ratcliffe ends 21-day hunger strike over wife's Iran detention

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is ending his hunger strike in central London after almost three weeks. Richard Ratcliffe has spent 21 days camped outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London without food. Picture date: Saturday November 13, 2021. PA/Aaron Chown
Richard Ratcliffe has spent three weeks on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office. Credit: PA

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - a British-Iranian woman who has been held in Iran for more than five years after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government - is ending his hunger strike after three weeks.

Richard Ratcliffe spent the past 21 days outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in central London, beginning his second hunger strike on October 24 after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran.

He said his family was "caught in a dispute between two states".

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been trapped in Iran for more than five years, Credit: PA

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was taking the couple’s daughter, Gabriella, to see her family when she was arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, spending four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.

According to her family, she was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.

Supporters clap Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, after he ended his hunger strike Credit: PA/Aaron Chown

On Saturday morning on King Charles Street, where Mr Ratcliffe has been staging his hunger strike, he said it was “the right time” to bring it to an end.

He was joined by seven-year-old daughter Gabriella and a crowd of supporters clapped as he made his way to a vehicle just before 2.10pm.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “We probably hoped we’d get a breakthrough doing this. We haven’t yet.

“I didn’t want to go out in an ambulance. I want to walk out with my head held high."

In a post on Twitter, Mr Ratcliffe said he was ending his hunger strike because the couple's daughter "needs two parents".

Mr Ratcliffe also criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “He hasn’t dealt adequately with Nazanin’s case for years.

“He hasn’t honoured his promises. And we live with those consequences.

“He should be more mindful of that. He shouldn’t just walk away from promises made.”

He said the prime minister's absence during his protest was "telling".

Mr Ratcliffe said the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace stopped to visit him earlier, and one other government minister has come to see him, but he said he has seen more Labour MPs.

Mr Ratcliffe said he may have been “naïve”, but said: “I did expect he would step up and sort it and he would deliver on the promises he made as foreign secretary once he had the power to do so.”

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with his daughter Gabriella, he is ending his hunger strike Credit: PA/Aaron Chown

Earlier this week, Mr Ratcliffe had a meeting with a foreign office minister over his wife's continued detention in Iran but said it left him feeling "deflated".

After finishing his hunger strike, Mr Ratcliffe is understood to be going to a hospital for a check up.

Mr Ratcliffe said he was starting to get pains in his feet overnight, and after a talk with a doctor the decision was made to end the hunger strike.

He said he plans to go to hospital to get checked out on Saturday afternoon and then hopes to be able to eat something after that.

His strike ended as a patchwork was due to be unveiled made from all the patches supporters have been sending throughout his time camped outside the FCDO.

A vigil for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was held on Friday night. Credit: PA

A meeting with Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, after FCDO officials had talks with Iranian deputy foreign minister Bagheri Kani on Thursday, left Mr Ratcliffe feeling "deflated" and "stuck in the same status quo".

He said he did not feel things had "moved forwards" and accused the British government of not giving a "clear enough message to Iran that hostage-taking is wrong".

While Mr Ratcliffe said the government "clammed up" and would not talk about the debt during his discussion with officials, The Guardian newspaper reported the UK told Iran it could not pay the debt owing to restrictions brought about by sanctions, quoting Tehran's deputy foreign minister.

According to the paper, Bagheri Kani said the two sides had agreed a payment of less than £500 million taking interest into account, and added: "Now what the UK government are bringing up is the limitations on banking interactions, saying it is a difficulty, and finally they cannot do it."

Mr Ratcliffe previously camped in front of the Iranian embassy for 15 days two years ago - a move he said had resulted in getting his daughter home.

During Mr Ratcliffe's latest demonstration he has been visited by supporters including Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman, writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as well as his local MP Tulip Siddiq.

Ms Siddiq tweeted on Friday to say she had secured a debate in Parliament on Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's situation and urged people to contact their MPs to ask them to speak in Tuesday's discussion and "make the case for bringing Nazanin home"