British-US national is now on hunger strike in prison

British-US national who was released from Iranian prison on the same day as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now on hunger strike after being sent back to jail following two days of freedom

  • Morad Tahbaz, 66, is back in prison on hunger strike as his sentence still holds
  • The conservationist was released from Evin prison on Wednesday in Tehran
  • But unlike Nazanin, he was put back behind bars after the brief furlough 

A dual national British-US wildlife conservationist detained by Iran has gone on hunger strike.

Wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, 66, who also holds Iranian citizenship, was taken back into custody after originally being allowed out on furlough last week.

His sister, Tahrane Tahbaz, told Today on BBC Radio 4: ‘He was taken back to prison after 48 hours. He wasn’t really on furlough. It seemed more like a visit than a furlough.

‘He didn’t have an ankle bracelet put on him. He was with security and, after 48 hours, he was taken back under security – back to the prison.

‘We haven’t heard from him since and we have heard through a relative just a few hours ago that he’s been taken from the prison and he’s been taken to an undisclosed location and that he’s gone on hunger strike.’

The family of a British-US national detained by Iran were led to believe that he would be part of the same release deal as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, his sister has said.

Morad Tahbaz, 66 – British-US national temporarily released from prison in Iran only to find himself back in custody two days later

Mr Tahbaz was originally allowed out on the same day last week that charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured)

Morad Tahbaz, 66, who also holds Iranian citizenship, was originally allowed out on the same day last week that charity worker Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Mr Ashoori were released and then allowed to return to Britain.

However, since then he has been taken back into custody.

His sister, Tahrane Tahbaz, told Today on BBC Radio 4: ‘Frankly, for four years we were led to believe that he would be part of the deal when it was made.

‘And that’s what we were told. And the deal was made, the money was paid.

‘And he wasn’t part of the deal – and he’s still there – and we’re very worried.’

A FCDO spokesperson said: ‘Morad has now been moved from Evin prison to a residential location in Tehran. ‘We have been in touch with Morad’s family throughout the day and continue to lobby the Iranian authorities at the highest levels to allow him to return home immediately, as the Iranian government committed to doing.’ 

Britain said it secured Mr Tahbaz’s furlough, along with the release and return of the two other dual nationals.

This came after Britain finally agreed to settle a £400 million debt dating back to the 1970s which had fuelled tensions between the countries for decades.

His Tehran-based lawyer said that two days after Mr Tahbaz had been released and went to his family’s home in the city, Iranian security forces forced him to return to Evin Prison. 

Morad Tahbaz has been sent back to prison in Tehran after a two-day furlough despite the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Tahbaz’s sister, Taraneh Tahbaz, said the situation was a ‘farce’ as she blasted the government for failing to secure the permanent release

Mr Tahbaz, who has cancer, was arrested during a crackdown on environmental activists in January 2018.

He is a prominent conservationist and board member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation which seeks to protect endangered species.

Mr Tahbaz was sentenced to 10 years in prison with his colleagues on vague charges of spying for the US and undermining Iran’s security.

The FCDO and the United States are working closely with each other to try to secure his permanent release.

Family members had hoped that Mr Tahbaz, who was born in Hammersmith, west London, would be freed under the deal which saw Mr Ashoori and Mrs Zaghari-Ratlcliffe arrive back on British soil in the early hours of Thursday.

It is not clear if Mr Tahbaz has been fitted with an ankle tag by the Iranians which the FCDO had been told was set to happen.

A US State Department spokesman: ‘We continue to work night and day to secure the release of our wrongfully detained citizens, including US-UK citizen Morad Tahbaz.

‘Simply put: Iran is unjustly detaining innocent Americans and others and should release them immediately.’

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said the Government is working to secure the return of Mr Tahbaz, telling BBC Breakfast on Thursday: ‘He also has American nationality, which has in the eyes of the Iranians – not in ours – made his case more complicated.’

He added: ‘We will continue to work to secure his release and, obviously, we work in close co-ordination with the US on these issues as well.’ 

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