By Haris Hussnain | Contributor
The husband of the imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has just finished a 3 week hunger strike. Richard Ratcliffe camped outside the Foreign office in protest of his wife’s imprisonment and the imprisonment of other British and Iranian dual nationals. He has been protesting for the government to take action, saying “I guess I’m looking for some kind of breakthrough”.
Nazanin was first imprisoned in 2016 in Tehran on charges of plotting to topple the Iranian government. She has always denied these claims. Whilst Nazanin’s case is the most well known, there are other British-Iranians in the same situation. Despite negotiations for Nazanin’s release the UK has stated that it cannot pay a £400m debt to Iran, which is seen as a precondition to Nazanin’s and other dual nationals’ release, due to bank restrictions caused by international sanctions.
On the 19th day of his hunger strike Richard Ratcliffe met with the Middle East Minister, James Cleverly. Mr Ratcliffe commented that “it felt like, you know, perfectly nice, sincere, caring, everyone in the room was caring. But you know we are still stuck in the same status quo. We’re still stuck in the same problems that led us to end up on hunger strike”.
Ratcliffe’s meeting followed talks with the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, who said “that now what the UK government are bringing up is the limitations on banking interactions, saying it’s a difficulty and finally they cannot do it”. He was pressed on the need for Iran to release all wrongfully imprisoned dual nationals including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz. Ali Bagheri Kani has stressed that the debt is not related to Ratcliffe’s release and has also stated that the debt is lower than £500m including the interest added to it. The British Foreign Office hasn’t commented on the reasons why an agreed debt cannot be paid.
Mr. Ali Bagheri Kani was asked if he had a message for Mr. Ratcliffe. He answered “we have Iranians that are in prison in the UK for more than 20 years . One man’s health is in danger and he is very weak. We work day by day with other countries for the swap of prisoners. This is not very unusual”.
With Iran still recovering from the 2018 nuclear deal abandoned by Donald Trump, and the UK’s inability to pay debts it is unclear what the fate of Nazanin and other dual nations will be.
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