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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband on second hunger strike in effort to free her

Nazanin

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband on second hunger strike in effort to free her

The husband of the jailed British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone on hunger strike for a second time in an attempt to persuade the UK foreign secretary to do more to bring his wife back from detention in Iran. His hunger strike is to take place outside the Foreign Office in London.

Richard Ratcliffe took the radical step in desperation after the Iranian authorities said earlier this month that Nazanin had lost her appeal against a second prison sentence. She will return to jail for another year, and then subject to a travel ban for a further year after that.

She has already served a five-year sentence for spying. She was arrested in 2016 and has always protested her innocence.

Ratcliffe’s six-year-old daughter, Gabriella, lives with him in London, having returned from Tehran two years ago, where she had stayed with her grandmother while Nazanin was serving her jail sentence.

The new foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has spoken to both Nazanin and Richard since her appointment, but has not held out any hope of a breakthrough.

At issue between the family and the Foreign Office is the ministerial refusal to pay a £400m historical debt to Iran that the UK government acknowledges that it owes.

The Foreign Office says sanctions prevent the payment being made, but refuse to reveal what efforts it has made to make the payment, or why previous attempts at prisoner swaps involving British-Iranian dual nationals have failed. It has not set out which sanctions prevent the payment, or why a humanitarian gift cannot be made to Iran.

Explaining his decision, Ratcliffe said Truss, in conversation with him, “shared how angry she was, how she would speak with the Iranian minister. But it was not a trigger-point to act. That would be when Nazanin was returned to prison.

“For us, reimprisonment is too late. It would mean not seeing Nazanin until 2023.

“Just prior to the news, we had a very bleak meeting with the Foreign Office, ending with me telling them I had no confidence in their strategy and their reluctance to act: they still do not settle the debt to Iran whose impasse in 2016 caused Nazanin to be taken. There is no legal impediment now, the minister said.

“But also they do nothing to disincentivise Iran’s hostage-taking, still refuse to use the word ‘hostage’ despite promises to Nazanin. They still seem surprised each time Iran escalates – but it still happens cost-free. They still say the same slogans. At some point, soundbites don’t protect you”.

He added: “It can be difficult to capture the feeling of a life wasting away, watching prison creep closer while we sit in the PM’s in-tray. Nazanin was increasingly distraught last week.

“Two years ago I went on hunger strike in front of the Iranian embassy, on the eve of Boris Johnson taking over as prime minister. Two years ago we were allowed to camp in front of the Iranian embassy for 15 days – much to their considerable anger. But it got Gabriella home.

“We are now giving the UK government the same treatment. In truth, I never expected to have to do a hunger strike twice. It is not a normal act. It seems extraordinary the need to adopt the same tactics to persuade government here, to cut through the accountability gap.”

Ratcliffe’s MP, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, said: “It should never have come to this. It’s time for the government to listen to the demands of Nazanin’s family, including paying the debt we owe to Iran, and finally bring her home.”

Rupert Skilbeck, the director of the NGO Redress, which is running a legal campaign for the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said: “It’s deeply worrying that Richard 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, we have only seen setback after setback. 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.”

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Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Adeleke’s Candidacy

The Supreme Court has affirmed Ademola Adeleke as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the just concluded Osun State Governorship Election.

This has laid to rest the suit filed by Dotun Babayemi, a governorship aspirant of the party who sought the invalidation of Adeleke’s victory.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel held that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit after counsel for the appellant, Adebayo Adelodun, withdrew the earlier notice of appeal that was filed within time.

At the resumed hearing, Adelodun, who represented the appellant and Babayemi informed the court that he sought to withdraw the earlier notice of appeal to replace it with the fresh application he filed.

But the panel held that Section 285(11) of the constitution stipulated that an appeal on a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the day of the decision, and that having filed the second appeal out of time, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Augie, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Babayemi had asked the court to invalidate the primary election that produced the governor-elect, citing non-compliance with a court order.

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400 Staff To Lose Jobs As BBC Goes Digital

The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC world service has on Thursday disclosed that about 400 of its staff will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms,

The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.

In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.

BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.

But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.

BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.

 

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Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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