LONDON: Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has claimed that British police tried to remove him from his protest outside the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and has pledged to stay until the government responds to his demands.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran for over five years on national security charges that she strenuously denies. Her husband has argued repeatedly that the UK is not doing enough to secure her release.
Ratcliffe began a hunger strike over the weekend to pressure the government to do more to bring his wife home, and he alleges that police tried to remove him from his picket outside the FCDO at 3.45 a.m. on Monday morning.
He said that despite the attempted removal, he intends to stay until Whitehall takes action, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.
Ratcliffe was joined by his daughter Gabriella on Monday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government. She has spent four years in the notorious Evin prison and one under house arrest in her family’s home in Tehran.
Her family said Iranian authorities revealed she was being held as a bargaining chip over a historic debt between the UK and pre-revolutionary Iranian government worth £400 million ($552.168 million).
Ratcliffe told the Standard: “I’m staying until the government responds. I’m hoping that response is to engage with the demands and not to tell the police to move me on.”
He has demanded that Whitehall “acknowledge Nazanin and the others as hostages, punish the perpetrators, keep the promise to settle the debt and commit to end state hostage taking in Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations.”
The JCPOA, often referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, is currently being renegotiated by world powers including the US and European nations with Iran. Critics have said that the narrow deal focuses too heavily on Iran’s nuclear activity without addressing other malignant behavior, such as support for regional proxies and the use of kidnapping as a tool of diplomacy.
Ratcliffe has lamented the harm that the ordeal is doing to his daughter, who herself was previously not allowed to leave Iran. He has also criticized the British government for its treatment of his family.
“Two years ago we were allowed to camp in front of the Iranian Embassy for 15 days, much to their considerable anger. But it got Gabriella home. We are now giving the UK government the same treatment.
“In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act,” he said. “It seems extraordinary, the need to adopt the same tactics to persuade the government here, to cut through the accountability gap.
“Of course Iran still remains the primary abuser in Nazanin’s case. But our family is caught in a dispute between two states.”
He added: “The UK is also letting us down.”
Sacha Deshmukh, interim CEO of Amnesty International UK, said: “It’s so incredibly upsetting that it’s come to this.
“Like Richard, we’ve grown tired of hearing ministers saying they’re ‘doing all they can’ for Nazanin and other arbitrarily-detained Britons in Iran — it doesn’t look like that to us, and it certainly hasn’t produced results.”
A spokesperson for the FCDO said: “Iran’s decision to proceed with these baseless charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through.
“Instead of threatening to return Nazanin to prison, Iran must release her permanently so she can return home.
“We are doing all we can to help Nazanin get home to her young daughter and family and we will continue to press Iran on this point.”