The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is enduring his 20th day on hunger strike, after a meeting with a Foreign Office Minister left him feeling “deflated” about his wife’s continued detention in Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe described being “stuck in the same status quo’’ after the discussion with James Cleverly on Thursday and accused the British Government of not doing enough to resolve the situation.
Ratcliffe began his hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London on Oct. 24.
He started after his wife lost her latest appeal while those at the meeting had been “perfectly nice, sincere and caring but he came away from it with “no hope”.
His update from Cleverly, lasting a little over 30 minutes, took place after talks between the UK Government officials and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri Kani.
A spokesman for the FCDO said Kani had been “pressed on the need for Iran to urgently release all British nationals unfairly detained in Iran’’.
They added that Cleverly had then met Ratcliffe “to reaffirm our commitment to reuniting his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with her family in the UK’’.
But speaking shortly after the meeting, Ratcliffe told reporters he felt “a little bit more deflated’’.
“We’re still stuck in the same status quo. We’re still stuck in the same problems that led us to end up on hunger strike.
“I don’t feel they’ve given a clear enough message to Iran that hostage-taking is wrong.
“I don’t think there are any consequences to Iran at present for its continuing taking hostages of British citizens and using them.’’
He said he thinks his wife will be “OK until Christmas’’ but added, what’s to stop them (Iran) threatening to put her in prison again?
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, had been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
She 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 pound ($535.5 million) debt to Iran.
Ratcliffe said the Government “clammed up’’ and would not talk about the debt during his discussion with them.
He vowed on Thursday to continue his hunger strike but acknowledged it was nearing the end “as a strategy’’.
He said he had promised his family, including his wife and mother, that he “won’t take it too far’’.
A singalong vigil is planned for Friday where he has been camped in King Charles Street.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, described the meeting’s outcome as “bitterly disappointing”.
Deshmukh called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “personally intervene’’ in the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other detainees.
“The UK Government must take decisive action to end the cruel games that Nazanin and her family have been forced to endure over the past five and a half years.
“We need a clearly articulated strategy for bringing Nazanin and all arbitrarily detained British nationals home from Iran once and for all.’’