Mum held in Iran on hunger strike

The Australian - - WORLD - RICHARD FORD LON­DON

A British-Ira­nian mother held in Tehran planned to go on hunger strike last night in protest at be­ing de­nied med­i­cal care in prison.

Nazanin Zaghari-Rat­cliffe says she will refuse food for three days de­spite fears that the Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties will cut off vis­its from her four-year-old daugh­ter.

She will con­sider ex­tend­ing the protest if her de­mands to see a doc­tor are not met.

Richard Rat­cliffe said his wife felt a “strong sense of trep­i­da­tion” be­fore the hunger strike. He added: “The ques­tion is whether she’ll just strike for the three days she an­nounced or whether she’ll de­cide to go on.”

Ms Zaghari-Rat­cliffe, 40, has suf­fered a se­ries of men­tal and phys­i­cal health com­plaints since she was ar­rested at Imam Khome­ini air­port in April 2016.

“We know a hunger strike has sig­nif­i­cant phys­i­cal con­se­quences the longer it goes on for and Nazanin is feel­ing a strong sense of trep­i­da­tion. But there aren’t many ways she can say, ‘Enough is enough. Take me se­ri­ously,’ ” said Mr Rat­cliffe.

He said his wife was hav­ing med­i­cal checks blocked and was con­cerned over lumps in her breasts, neck pains and numb­ness in her arms and legs.

Ms Zaghari-Rat­cliffe was sen­tenced to five years in jail after be­ing ac­cused of spy­ing, a charge she de­nies. She has been de­tained for more than 1000 days.

The char­ity worker’s daugh­ter, Gabriella, has been stay­ing with fam­ily in Iran since Ms Zaghari-Rat­cliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion, was de­tained.

Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion chief Monique Villa said last night: “This is slow and cruel tor­ture, yet one more in­jus­tice in­flicted upon her.”

Last week, Ira­nian state tele­vi­sion broad­cast pre­vi­ously un­seen footage of her ar­rest in a doc­u­men­tary ac­cus­ing Bri­tain of seek­ing to in­fil­trate Iran through the BBC’s Per­sian ser­vice.

The film shows Ms Zaghari-- Rat­cliffe’s shock as an of­fi­cial at Tehran air­port says she is banned from leav­ing the coun­try and that he holds a war­rant for her ar­rest.

While no men­tion is made of the BBC dur­ing the ar­rest, the film iden­ti­fies the British-Ira­nian char­ity worker as a “main agent” in a cam­paign by the cor­po­ra­tion to re­cruit and train op­po­si­tion jour­nal­ists in Iran. Ms Zaghari-Rat­cliffe pre­vi­ously worked in the BBC’s char­i­ta­ble in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment wing. She has never worked for BBC Per­sian or in any jour­nal­is­tic ca­pac­ity.

Mr Rat­cliffe said the doc­u­men­tary con­tained “some pre­vi­ous dis­tor­tions and half-truths and some out­right lies, still at­tempt­ing to stand by the lie that Nazanin was do­ing some­thing against Iran”. He be­lieves his wife is be­ing held for diplo­matic lever­age against Bri­tain.

The doc­u­men­tary fea­tures the mo­ment when then for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son mis­tak­enly told par­lia­ment Ms Zaghari-Rat­cliffe was train­ing jour­nal­ists at the time of her ar­rest.

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