Husband of UK woman detained in Iran ends 21-day hunger strike

LONDON (AP) — The husband of a British-Iranian woman who has been detained for more than five years in Iran says he is ending his hunger strike outside Britain’s Foreign Office after 21 days.

Richard Ratcliffe has been sleeping in a tent outside the Foreign Office’s main entrance in an effort to pressure the British government to secure the release of his wife and other detained British-Iranian nationals. He began his demonstration last month after his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, lost her latest appeal in Iran.

Ratcliffe, who was joined by the couple’s 7-year-old daughter Gabriella and several supporters as he announced the end of his hunger strike, thanks the many well-wishers who stopped to talk to him but said the failure of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to drop by was “telling.” He adds that his wife has requested a phone call from Johnson.

While no breakthrough happened in the last three weeks, Ratcliffe says his hunger strike had shone a “greater spotlight” on his wife’s case and added pressure on the governments in London and Tehran.

“I think we’ve stopped the backward movement,” he says.

An undated file photo provided by the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran. (Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe via AP, File)

Ratcliffe says he had started to get pains in his feet overnight, and a discussion with a doctor persuaded him to end the hunger strike. He says he planned to go to a hospital to get checked and hopes to be able to eat something after that.

“I didn’t want to go out in an ambulance,” he says. “I want to walk out with my head held high.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe served five years in prison after being taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 and convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and was arrested as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family. Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies.

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