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Free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: 'If Jeremy Hunt hadn't escalated things, she might have' says relieved husband Richard

PUBLISHED: 17:57 08 March 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

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If West Hampstead's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hadn't been given diplomatic protection last night, she might have seriously considered another hunger strike, her husband Richard told the Ham&High.

Richard Ratcliffe (right), the husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and Kate Allen from Amnesty International, hand in a letter to the Iranian Embassy in London concerning the continued detention of his wife in Iran. Picture: Yui MokRichard Ratcliffe (right), the husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and Kate Allen from Amnesty International, hand in a letter to the Iranian Embassy in London concerning the continued detention of his wife in Iran. Picture: Yui Mok

“I am very glad that Jeremy Hunt has decided to escalate things, rather than Nazanin,” Richard said. “She has been very low, particularly two weeks ago.”

He added that earlier this week Nazanin and her cellmate Narges Mohammadi wrote an open letter to the Tehran prosecutor complaining that they are still being denied the medical treatment they demanded – and were promised – when both women went on hunger strike for three days in January.

Richard explained: “Part of that was suggesting ‘we may have to do something else, perhaps strike again’ if you don’t [allow us treatment]’.”

He was relieved that the Foreign Secretary had chosen to up the pressure on Iran instead and said: “It’s a big step. It’s what we have been asking for for a long time. Jeremy Hunt said some strong and clear things.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin CampaignForeign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

“What will happen now remains to be seen, but we are expecting an immediate negative reaction.”

Richard said he thought the next few weeks would then see a more considered response from the Iranian authorities – who have been holding Nazanin in Evin jail since April 2016.

He had not spoken to Nazanin since the announcement, but thought “she’ll have been uplifted by this news” which has been reported on Iranian television.

After the hunger strike ended, Nazanin was allowed to see two doctors, who examined two of her complaints – lumps found in her breasts and pain in her neck and arms – but scans those doctors ordered were blocked and she has not be able to see anyone in relation to mental health problems.

Both women feel promises made in January have not been delivered upon, and they threatened a return to direct action.

In the letter, translated from Farsi by IranWire, they said: “Now, more than two months after our hunger strike and despite our numerous letters to, and calls on, responsible officials, unfortunately we are still deprived medical attention and from being sent to [outside] medical facilities.

“If our requests continue to be ignored, we will take protest actions.”

Jeremy Hunt announced on Thursday night that he was giving Nazanin diplomatic protection – which means her case will now be treated as a dispute between states. He said: “It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result.

“But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.”

He also condemned Nazanin’s lack of medical treatment and called for her release.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq welcomed the news, she said “By finally granting her diplomatic protection, the Government has formally recognised Nazanin as a UK national with all attendant legal rights.”

This was echoed by human rights advocacy groups Amnesty International UK and REDRESS.

Amnesty’s Kate Allen said: “We’re pleased to see that Nazanin’s plight remains a priority for the UK Government, and if this helps secure her release after nearly three years of unjust imprisonment then of course we welcome the move.

“Nazanin should never have been arrested in the first place, and she’s already suffered a string of human rights violations.”

Rupert Skilbeck, the director of REDRESS, who work on behalf of political prisoners, added: “This decision is hugely significant for Nazanin and gives her hope for the future.”

The Iranian Ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad claimed Jeremy Hunt’s declaration had broken international law.

He also reiterated that Iran does not recognise dual nationality, and that the state considers Nazanin solely as an Iranian citizen.

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