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Jailed British-Iranian mother begins new hunger strike

The British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on spying charges has begun a new hunger strike, her husband has said.

On a petition page dedicated to freeing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said she had stopped taking food in protest at her "unfair imprisonment".

Mr Ratcliffe said he would also not eat for the duration of her protest.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is reunited with her daughter after being granted a temporary release from prison
Image: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter after she was granted a temporary release from prison

He said his wife's decision followed the fifth birthday of their daughter, Gabriella, who has not been allowed to leave Iran following her mother's arrest in 2016 and is living with her grandparents.

"Nazanin had vowed that if we passed Gabriella's fifth birthday with her still inside, then she would do something – to mark to both governments that 'enough is enough,'" he said.

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"This really has gone on too long."

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife sounded "nervous, but calm" when she spoke to him from prison.

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"Her demand from the strike, she said, is for unconditional release. She has long been eligible for it."

The decision comes amid heightened tension between the two countries, as the UK has said it is "almost certain" that a branch of the Iranian military had attacked two oil tankers the Gulf of Oman.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted on Saturday that he met with Mr Ratcliffe and his message to Iran is to "do the right thing, show the world your humanity and let this innocent woman home".

Mr Hunt granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in March, but Tehran refuses to acknowledge her dual nationality.

Mr Ratcliffe thanked the secretary for the "kind words" but said, "our position is that the government has to do more".

With Richard Ratcliffe this morning whose family have been separated for over 3 years. As Richard continues his campaign for Nazanin’s release at the Iranian embassy,my message to Iran: DO THE RIGHT THING, SHOW THE WORLD YOUR HUMANITY & LET THIS INNOCENT WOMAN HOME #freenazanin pic.twitter.com/bitSctNmn9

— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) June 15, 2019

Speaking to Sky News on Saturday, Mr Ratcliffe said they will take the hunger strike "day by day", hoping it will make an impact.

He said he was committed to staying outside the Iranian embassy in London as long as his wife remains on her hunger strike.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at Tehran'sImam Khomeini Airport accused of plotting to undermine the regime, a charge she denies, as she prepared to board a plane with Gabriella back to the UK after visiting relatives.

Footage of her arrest in Iran was released earlier this year as part of what Mr Ratcliffe called "cruel psychological game".

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on her last hunger strike in January, protesting her imprisonment. She also said at the time she was asked to spy on Britain for Iran.

Mr Ratcliffe said the new hunger strike is "open-ended" and he was hoping it won't last for "weeks and weeks" but his wife is "certainly pretty resolved".

Britain has decided to grant Richard Radcliffe's wife Nazanin diplomatic protection
Nazanin's husband: Battle not over

Mr Ratcliffe told Sky News his wife's mental health has deteriorating and she has complained of lumps in her breasts and neck problems.

She was granted a three-day temporary release and was reunited with her daughter last August, but had to go back to jail.

The 41-year-old charity worker from Hampstead, north London, is serving a five-year sentence in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

Last month, it emerged that a row between government departments could be preventing the mother's release.

But in April, Iran's foreign minister suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from jail as part of a prisoner swap.

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