Mum’s fears over Iran hunger strike

Western Mail - - NEWS - PA RE­PORTER news­[email protected]­

ABRITISH-IRA­NIAN mother de­tained in Tehran feels a “strong sense of trep­i­da­tion” ahead of em­bark­ing on a hunger strike after be­ing de­nied health care, her hus­band said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will strike for three days start­ing this week along with Narges Mo­ham­madi, an Ira­nian hu­man rights de­fender who is also be­hind bars in Evin prison.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suf­fered a cat­a­logue of men­tal and phys­i­cal health com­plaints since she was ar­rested at Tehran’s Imam Khome­ini air­port on April 3 2016.

Hus­band Richard Ratcliffe, speak­ing to the Ob­server, said: “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’.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe will con­sider ex­tend­ing the hunger strike - a protest after be­ing de­nied med­i­cal care in prison - if her de­mands to see a doc­tor are not met, Mr Ratcliffe said.

He said his wife was hav­ing med­i­cal treat­ment blocked for check­ing lumps in her breasts, neu­ro­log­i­cal care over her neck pains and numb­ness in her arms and legs, and for see­ing an out­side psy­chi­a­trist.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, of Hamp­stead in north Lon­don, was sen­tenced to five years in jail after be­ing ac­cused of spy­ing, a charge she strongly de­nies.

She spent her 40th birth­day on Box­ing Day in prison, where she has been de­tained for more than 1,000 days.

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

Hus­band Richard has mounted a high-pro­file cam­paign for his wife’s re­lease, sup­ported by Mrs Zaghar­iRat­cliffe’s sis­ter-in-law Re­becca Jones, who works as a GP in Ebbw Vale.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt has pre­vi­ously warned Iran there will be “con­se­quences” over its treat­ment of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Re­spond­ing to her plans for a hunger strike, Mr Hunt told BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day: “She is in­cred­i­bly brave. We are all think­ing of her.

“Our mes­sage to Iran is very sim­ple - do not use in­di­vid­ual in­no­cent peo­ple as pawns of diplo­matic lever­age.

“There will be con­se­quences for Iran and for Iran’s rep­u­ta­tion in the world. The UK is back­ing Nazanin. We will do ev­ery­thing we pos­si­bly can to get her home safely.”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional UK’s di­rec­tor Kate Allen said: “We wel­come Jeremy Hunt’s con­cern for Nazanin and again urge the Gov­ern­ment to do ev­ery­thing it can to avert the need for her to em­bark on the per­ilous course of a hunger strike next week.

“If the UK can con­vince the Ira­nian prison au­thor­i­ties to al­low Nazanin the med­i­cal care she needs that would be an im­por­tant step for­ward.

“Most of all though, the UK needs to reit­er­ate its in­sis­tence that Nazanin is a char­ity worker not a crim­i­nal.”

The Free Nazanin cam­paign

> Nazanin Zaghar­iRat­cliffe with her daugh­ter Gabriella

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