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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to go on three-day hunger strike in Iranian jail

Jailed British-Iranian charity worker and activist Narges Mohammadi set to strike over failure of Iranian authorities to provide medical treatment
Campaigners hold posters as Richard Ratcliffe, husband of jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, delivers a petition and a letter addressed to the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi to demand her release, at the Iranian Embassy in London (AFP)

Jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is set to go on hunger strike in her Tehran jail cell to protest her denial of medical care.

In a letter published by the Iranian NGO Defenders of Human Rights Centre, Zaghari-Ratcliffe announced that she would be going on a three-day hunger strike along with imprisoned Iranian physicist and campaigner Narges Mohammadi.

"In protest to this illegal, inhuman and unlawful behaviour, and to express our concerns for our health and survival at this denial of specialist treatment, despite taking daily medicines, we will go on hunger strike from 14.01.2019 to 16.01.2019," the letter said.

"We announce that in the event of the authority's failure to address these concerns and them further endangering our health, we will take further action."

The charity worker was first arrested in April 2016 while working for the Thompson Reuters Foundation, accused of spying and plotting against the Islamic Republic. She has denied the charges.

Although she is potentially eligible for parole, this has been repeatedly denied to her by Iranian authorities.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband told the Telegraph that she was "currently having medical treatment blocked for lumps in her breasts, for neurological care over her neck pains and numbness in her arms and legs", and said that "seeing an outside psychiatrist has been banned."

"These are all being personally blocked by the head of Evin clinic, Mr Khani, despite having been approved by the prison doctor."

What is the PM’s plan to bring her home? Quiet diplomacy has failed

- Tulip Siddiq, British MP

Mohammadi, deputy president of Defenders of Human Rights Centre, has been repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for campaigning for reform within Iran.

In September 2016 she was sentenced to 16 years in prison on a number of charges, including “gathering and conspiring with the aim of committing crimes against national security", as well as "propaganda against the state” and “forming and managing an illegal group.”

Amnesty International described her sentence at the time as a "cruel and devastating blow to human rights in Iran."

Denial of medical care

Richard Ratcliffe said the hunger strike had mainly been prompted by the refusal of a doctor to inspect the lumps in Zaghari-Ratcliffe's breast.

"The denial of seeing a specialist to get the lumps checked in her breasts was a last straw. She has decided that enough is enough. Talking and lobbying in other ways hasn’t worked," he explained.

The denial of seeing a specialist to get the lumps checked in her breasts was a last straw. She has decided that enough is enough

- Richard Ratcliffe, husband

Diplomatic tensions around Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case were exacerbated in 2017 when Boris Johnson, then the British foreign minister, wrongly described her in a meeting as having been training journalists in the country, a comment that led Iranian authorities to threaten new charges against her.

Since taking over as foreign secretary in July 2018, Jeremy Hunt has announced a renewed push for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release and last week accused Iran of holding her for diplomatic leverage.

Her MP Tulip Siqqid tweeted on Thursday that "quiet diplomacy" by Hunt and Prime Minister Theresa May had failed to return the charity worker home and said other options needed to be pursued.

"Nazanin has again been driven to despair because of the hopelessness of her plight. The cruelty of her captors + our Government’s failure to secure release means her life is at risk," she wrote.

"What is the PM’s plan to bring her home? Quiet diplomacy has failed."

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