UK television presenters Claudia Winkleman and Victoria Coren Mitchell have backed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband on his hunger strike in Whitehall, in an effort to spur the UK government to do more to secure her release.
The pair joined Richard Ratcliffe outside the Foreign Office in London on Monday, where he was on day nine of a hunger strike that he began after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran.
British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained for nearly six years, and was initially arrested in 2016 and accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime. She has always vehemently denied those claims.
After concluding her five-year sentence, Tehran hit her with an additional year behind bars, accusing her of sharing anti-regime propaganda.
She has served the majority of her sentence in the notorious Evin prison, and has spent smaller amounts of it under house arrest in Tehran.
Coren Mitchell, host of the BBC quiz show “Only Connect,” said: “The ongoing torment of this innocent family is a failure of British diplomacy in its core aim: To protect its citizens.”
She added: “An accountant from Hampshire is starving himself on the steps of the Foreign Office for goodness sake!”
Ratcliffe, who has one daughter with his wife, said: “It was lovely of them (Winkleman and Coren Mitchell). They both made patches for our giant patchwork quilt, and were very caring.”
Asked about his wellbeing, he said: “Mentally and physically a bit slower, and I get tired more, so lots of sitting down. But still continuing for now.”
Rupert Skilbeck, director of the NGO Redress, told The Times: “It’s deeply worrying that Richard Ratcliffe has felt compelled to resort once again to a life-threatening measure to bring attention to the desperate plight of his family. Five years on … the UK government’s approach is clearly not working.
“It’s time to stand up to perpetrators of hostage-taking by sanctioning those who perpetuate this reprehensible practice, and to bring Nazanin home.” (Source: Arab News)