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Iran: British detainee Morad Tahbaz back in prison two days after furlough

UK government say Tahbaz returned to Evin Prison to have ankle tag fitted, but family fear furlough was 'just a cover'
Morad Tahbaz returned to Tehran’s Evin prison two days after he was released on furlough by Iranian authorities (Screengrab/Social media)

A British detainee has been returned to Tehran's Evin prison to have an ankle tag fitted, two days after he was released on furlough by Iranian authorities.

Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American wildlife conservationist who holds UK citizenship, was granted a temporary furlough on Wednesday as part of a deal that saw fellow British detainees Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori fly back home to the UK. 

The deal also saw the UK settle a £400m ($527m) historic debt for the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks to Tehran, which had been cancelled following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

On Friday, Tahbaz was taken from his home in Tehran by three armed guards, according to a report in The Guardian. 

"The furlough negotiated by the UK government with the Iranians was just a cover so the UK could free the other two British Iranians, and then enjoy a victory lap," a family member said.  

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However, the UK government is hopeful that Tahbaz will be returned to his family home shortly.

"The Iranians have told the UK government that Morad has been taken to Evin to fit an ankle tag that should have been fitted before his release," a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson told Middle East Eye. 

"We hope to see him returned to his home in the coming hours. Morad Tahbaz is a tri-national and we are working closely with the United States to secure Morad’s permanent release."

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The FCDO added that anything other than a return home would be considered a breach of the commitments Iran has made over Morad’s indefinite furlough.

Tahbaz was detained by Iran in 2018 alongside several other wildlife conservationists that were accused of spying. 

"This is devastating news, especially after hopes were raised this week that Morad was set for release and return home," Eilidh Macpherson, Amnesty International UK’s Individuals at Risk campaign manager, said in response to Tahbaz's return to jail.

"We know his family were already extremely anxious that instead of being put on a plane along with Nazanin and Anoosheh, Morad was only transferred into a different form of arbitrary detention and left under tight security at a family member’s flat in Tehran."

She added that the UK government's welcoming of Tahbaz's furlough earlier this week had suggested that he was going to be fully released and reunited with his family, but "instead he's back in Evin Prison". 

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss welcomed Tahbaz's release on furlough on Wednesday but said it was "far from sufficient".

"We will continue to work intensively to secure his departure from Iran," she added.

Macpherson called on the government to apply concerted pressure to secure Tahbaz's release, along with fellow British detainee Mehran Raoof. 

Raoof, a British-Iranian labour rights activist, was arrested in October 2020 and handed a 10-year sentence in August of last year on national security charges. 

His name was not mentioned at all by the UK government in relation to this week’s developments.

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