Morad Tahbaz, the British-Iranian-American citizen left behind last week when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were allowed to return home to the UK, was taken from Evin prison to a hotel in Tehran after representations by the UK and US governments, the Foreign Office said.
The department added that it was lobbying Iranian authorities at the highest level to allow him to return home to Tehran immediately, as the Iranian government had previously pledged to do.
Tahbaz was released from prison last week and allowed to stay at his home in Tehran with his wife for just two days before being returned to prison. The Foreign Ministry had been told by the Iranians that he had only been sent back to jail to have his ankle tagged, but he was then kept in jail over the weekend, which led, according to his family, to decide to launch a hunger strike. to protest his treatment.
Tahbaz is a tri-national with American, Iranian and British citizenship and the Foreign Office said he was working with the United States to secure his permanent release. He said last week that he had only succeeded in persuading the Iranians to let him go on indefinite leave at his family home in Tehran, but could not persuade Iranian officials to allow him to leave. join other dual UK nationals on the return flight to the UK. .
This latest development – a transfer from prison to a hotel – suggests that some of the pressure on the Iranian government, including from his family outside Iran, has had some impact.
But the family remains deeply unhappy with the way he is being treated. They accused the Foreign Office of abandoning him in order to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori, and revealed that Morad’s 93-year-old mother was taken to hospital on Saturday.
His sister Tarane Tahbaz said: “He was released for 10 hours, then 24 hours, before it ended after 48 hours. I’m afraid the Foreign Office wanted him out for 48 hours so they could secure their wonderful photo shoot.
Morad’s sister said she briefly saw video footage of her brother on an iPhone: “He was barely recognizable, as he lost 40 kg. I only knew it was him when he waved and smiled.
Tahbaz, an environmentalist, was arrested in January 2018 along with eight other members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
Tarane said: “We were told by the Foreign Office that the less noise we made the better it would be for him and his release, so for four years we were told he would be part of the deal if and when it was to be made. It was only after the release of Anoosheh and Nazanin – which we are delighted about – that we discovered that it had to be left behind. We are very grateful that Nazanin continues to push for us now that she’s out.
She also revealed that her 93-year-old mother, Hamideh, had to be rushed to hospital on Saturday night because “she had a complete collapse. Morad’s incarceration was a terrible blow for her. She really wants to stay alive just to see him.
“It was such a shock when he was first arrested. We thought it was a mistake, but when they were sentenced to terrible prison terms, we didn’t know what to do.
Separately, Ashoori’s wife, Sherry Izadi, has thanked Guardian readers for raising money to pay a sudden £27,000 fine imposed on them by the Iranian government in connection with his release. The family had to go into heavy debt to raise the money.
Within 12 hours of the launch of a crowdfunding website advertised by the Guardian, the money was raised. Izadi said, “We are absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of the public and the hundreds of messages of support and sympathy we have received. These acts of kindness restored our faith in humanity. We are also extremely grateful to the Guardian for helping us raise this money in such a short time.
“We mark the first day of spring and the start of the Iranian New Year with renewed hope and a firm resolve to help reunite the remaining detainees with their loved ones.”