THE Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, was among the visitors this week showing support for Richard Ratcliffe, who is on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in an effort to persuade the Government to obtain the release of his imprisoned wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was first jailed in Iran five years ago for crimes including plotting the overthrow of the Iranian government, lost her appeal against a second prison sentence, and was ordered to return to prison for another year, with a further year of a travel ban (News, 30 April). Her physical and mental health continues to decline.
The Bishop wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “Dropped by to see Richard. Praying that he, Gabriella and Nazanin will be reunited soon.”
This is Mr Ratcliffe’s second hunger strike. His strained face and unflinching gaze are on thousands of images, while comments on a Twitter storm report him as getting weaker but determined to stay as long as it takes. One described him as “Dignified, erudite and utterly heart-breaking.”
Britain owes Iran £400 million in an acknowledged historical debt over the purchase of Challenger tanks, but argues that sanctions forbid its payment. In a video diary on day eight of his protest, Mr Ratcliffe told the Government: “Enough gaslighting. Enough prevarication and deflection.”
The Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was asked in Parliament by Jeremy Hunt when the debt would be repaid, and how the Government would ensure that hostage-taking never paid.
She replied: “I have huge sympathy for Nazanin and Richard Ratcliffe, and I have spoken to both of them about the terrible situation Nazanin faces. It is imperative that she is not put back into jail in Iran. I am working as hard as I can both directly with the Iranian authorities — I had a meeting with Iranian ministers — as well as our international allies, to bring Nazanin and the other UK detainees home.”
Amnesty International said this week that it was increasing the pressure on the Government to take “concrete steps” to get Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe home. It is also concerned for three others arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned in Iran: Anoosheh Ashoori, Morad Tahbaz, and Mehran Raoof.