A tri-national released from an Iranian prison on the same day two British-Iranians were allowed to return to the UK has been put back in prison, his family said.
The UK government said it was told the return would be temporary and he would hopefully be back to his Tehran home soon.
Morad Tahbaz, a 66-year-old U.S.-British-Iranian conservationist held in Iran since January 2018, was released on furlough from prison on Wednesday, after negotiations between the UK government and the Iranian regime.
On the same day, two British-Iranians dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were allowed to return to the UK after years of detention, and the UK government announced it had authorised the payment of a £393.8 million (approx. $515 million) historical debt to Iran “in parallel” with the release.
But Tahbaz’s family on Friday said they were “distraught” that Tahbaz had been returned to prison.
Tahbaz’s sister Taraneh Tahbaz said her brother called to tell them he was being escorted back to jail.
Taraneh Tahbaz told The Telegraph that the news was “devastating” to the family, who were “already extremely anxious that instead of being put on a plane along with Nazanin and Anoosheh, Morad was only granted temporary release from jail and left under tight security at a family member’s flat in Tehran.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss previously said Tahbaz didn’t return to the UK because his U.S. citizenship had complicated the matter as “that is seen in Iranian eyes as also meaning that the [United States] are involved.”
Taraneh Tahbaz said she’s hoping the U.S. and UK governments would react.
“There are so many political things going on in the world that his case might just be swept under the rug,” she said in an interview in Madrid where she lives.
“We are hoping that the American authorities will react. We are hoping that British authorities will also come forward and help out because he is a British subject too, or are they only listening to the Iranians who say that he is an American?”
In a separate statement, the Tahbaz family said they “were confident and assured that the UK government had taken on [the] responsibility to secure his release,” but “after the euphoria of Nazanin and Anoosheh’s homecoming, there’s a worrying sense that the UK government hasn’t pressed the Iranian authorities for Morad’s freedom in the same way.”
Shortly afterward, a spokesman for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) said it had been told by Tehran that Tahbaz had been taken back to Evin prison to fit an ankle bracelet.
“We hope to see him returned to his home in the coming hours,” the FCDO said. “Morad Tahbaz is a tri-national and we are working closely with the United States to secure Morad’s permanent release.”
London-born Tahbaz was arrested in 2018 during a trip to visit his in-laws. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “assembly and collusion against Iran’s national security” and working for the United States as a spy.
Reuters contributed to this report.