Britain accused of ‘abandoning’ a citizen still detained in Iran – POLITICO

LONDON — The family of Morad Tahbaz – a British-American-Iranian national who is still jailed in Iran – have accused the British government of ignoring their objections to a deal to keep him in jail while allowing the high-profile release of to reach two other prisoners.

Tahbaz and seven other conservationists working for the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were arrested in Iran in 2018. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying for the US and undermining Iran’s security. He denies these allegations.

Tahbaz, who was born in the UK but also has US citizenship, was released to house arrest last week in a much-heralded deal to release two other prisoners – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. The couple were fully released last Wednesday and have now returned to the UK, but Tahbaz is back in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Members of Tahbaz’s family told POLITICO they had twice warned the British government against reaching an agreement whereby Iran would place him under house arrest and release him fully Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori. They said they feared such a deal would not materialize Tahbaz’s eventual release and that this offered no guarantee that he would not be returned to prison.

They also claimed that the UK government failed to warn them about the latest deal.

Tahbaz’s daughter, Roxanne, said her father, who has cancer and contracted COVID-19 twice while in prison, is now on hunger strike to protest the way he is being treated by Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

She added: “He was born in Britain and while the FCDO say his case is complicated because the Iranians treated him as an American, it’s not because of them. He is English. You can’t choose how you treat him. He’s also a British citizen – just because he lives in the US doesn’t make him any less a British citizen.”

A second relative, who asked not to be identified, said of the British government: “They were so anxious to go on that lap of honor that they didn’t make a real deal for Morad, they just left him up in the air.”

The British Foreign Office said it would “urgently raise the Morad case at the highest levels of the Iranian government”.

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According to the family, then-British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab first proposed on April 19.

Tahbaz’s family declined this offer, arguing that the British government could not guarantee that Tahbaz would not be returned to prison later and given broader skepticism that the United States would waive its own sanctions on Iran To allow Britain to settle a historic case of debt with Tehran.

Raab proposed the same deal to the family a second time during an hour-long phone call on July 22, 2021, with the family again turning it down. Raab was transferred to another department a few weeks later as part of a government reshuffle and the case passed to Liz Truss, his successor as foreign secretary.

Raab “tried to push through this deal” and “assured us that he would trust the Iranians,” the second relative said.

But they added: “We as a family declined, saying Morad was the only one born in Britain [prisoner]. They are leaving him behind and as you can see we predicted what happened today… He is on hunger strike, he is devastated and he cannot believe the way the UK is playing with his life.”

Raab declined to comment.

The family members said when London and Tehran reached an agreement last week to release Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori, they were not consulted beforehand and only learned the news from the media.

Truss has expressed hope that Tahbaz could be released as part of negotiations to revive an international deal Iran’s nuclear program. But the family fear Britain has lost its clout to haul Tahbaz out after paying off nearly £400m in debt to Tehran since the 1970s.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is among the critics British Government decision to pay the debt and accused London of paying “blood money” and “rewarding hostage-takers”.

The second relative asked, “The question is, if you have given Iran 100 percent of what Iran has asked for over the past four years, why are you complimenting yourself on your skillful negotiations?”

An FCDO spokesman said: “We are urgently raising Morad’s case at the highest levels of the Iranian government. He must be allowed to return to his family home in Tehran immediately, which the Iranian government has pledged to do.”

Truss told the House of Commons last week that the government had been “very persistent in pushing to get Morad out of prison” but described his situation as “very, very difficult” because Iranian authorities recognize him as both a US citizen and a British citizen treat.

Taraneh Tahbaz, Morad’s sister, said her brother had become “a pawn in geopolitical strategies”.

“The deal is done, the money is paid. Morad was not included in the deal that was made, he still remains a hostage and this nightmare is not over,” she said. Britain accused of 'abandoning' a citizen still detained in Iran - POLITICO

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