Richard Ratcliffe has urged prime minister Boris Johnson to protect all British citizens – not just his mates.
Entering the 17th day of a hunger strike, the campaigner called on the PM to demand the freedom of Britons detained in Evin prison – including his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is detained over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.
Mr Ratcliffe says his wife, with whom he shares a daughter, Gabriella, is being held “hostage” due to the UK owing a £400 million debt to Iran over a failure to deliver Chieftain tanks ordered by the Shah of Iran before he was overthrown in 1979. An international arbitration process in 2008 ruled that the UK owes Iran the debt.
“Deliver on his promises”
Earlier this week Mr Ratcliffe told the PA news agency that the Prime Minister needs to “deliver on his promises” to repay the debt and protect his wife. He is demanding Mr Johnson speaks to the Iranian delegate during the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow.
He said: “The Iranian delegate needs to be asked about it. He (the Prime Minister) promised to settle a debt and he hasn’t, and now my wife is being held hostage. He needs to deliver on that promise.
“He needs to take responsibility for that and the consequences of his failings. I think if he does that, she will be protected.”
Mr Ratcliffe, who has previously completed a 15-day hunger strike, says he is “now in uncharted territory” and is seeing the physical effects of 16 days without food, including experiencing cold hands and feet.
He said: “It’s definitely getting harder. My family are worried about how long it will go on for.”
Mr Ratcliffe says he is watching for various physical symptoms that are to be expected the longer a hunger strike goes on for, including becoming dazed and dizzy, losing weight and his skin turning yellow.
He said: “It hasn’t happened yet but I’ve kept warm enough. I’m taking it almost day-by-day.
“The last time I did 15 days and it took some recovery. Now I’m into uncharted territory. It is the first time I know what day 16 feels like. I don’t know how I will feel the next day, or day 17 or 21 or 33. It’s a balance between wanting a response from the Government and not putting my family under too much pressure the longer it goes on.”
Mr Ratcliffe said the response from members of the public who have visited him and written him letters has been overwhelming.
A pile of letters addressed to “Richard Ratcliffe, outside the Foreign Office” sits next to him alongside a number of tents and signs saying “Free Nazanin”.
He said: “People send lots of support and it shows so much kindness. People often get wrapped up in the world and complaining about the Government and whatever and it’s really extraordinary how kind people can be.
“It gives you faith in human kindness.”