“Mr Tahbaz was released on bail and with an electronic bracelet,” Hojat Kermani, Mr Tahbaz’s lawyer, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA news agency on Wednesday. Mr Tahbaz and seven other conservationists were accused by Iranian authorities of collecting classified information about Iran’s strategic areas under the pretext of carrying out environmental and scientific projects. Mr Tahbaz, who was born in London and also holds a US passport, has always denied the charges.
In March, Foreign Secretary Lizz Truss said the UK Government had secured Mr Tahbaz’s furlough, along with the release and return of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori, after the Government finally agreed to settle a £400million debt to Iran dating from the1970s.
However, two days after the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori, Mr Tahbaz was returned to prison.
Speaking about Mr Tahbaz’s case in the Commons on March 16, Ms Truss said: “It is a very very difficult situation. Morad Tahbaz is a tri-national. We pushed very hard to get Morad out of prison.
“I have been in touch today and he is now back in his house, with security in place, but with his family.”
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She added: “We will continue to work to get him back and work with the United States to make that happen.”
Only 48 hours later, Mr Tahbaz was returned to Evin prison in the Iranian capital.
A distressed member of the Tahbaz family said “an armed guard was present in the family home, and the visit was first for 10 hours and then extended to 24 hours and finally to 48 hours”.
The family member said “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”.
Ms Truss made it clear in interviews that although she was seeking Mr Tahbaz’s release along with that of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori, she was not prepared to make it a condition of the payment of the £400m debt to Iran that all three were released.
An earlier negotiation between the Iranians and the Foreign Office then led by the then-foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, broke down in January 2021 when Mr Tahbaz insisted his release should be part of the deal.
Responding to reports that Mr Tahbaz was released from jail in Iran on furlough and made to wear an electronic tag, Eilidh Macpherson, Amnesty International UK’s Individuals at Risk Campaign Manager, said: “This is very encouraging news but we’ve been here before and we now need to see the UK pressing hard for Morad’s full, unconditional release and permission for him to leave Iran along with his wife Vida.”
She added: “Back in March when Morad was given a temporary release for just 48 hours, it was clear the Iranian authorities were once again playing cruel games with a British national for diplomatic gain.
“It goes without saying that Morad should never have been jailed in the first place and it remains a matter of grave concern that British nationals continue to be held arbitrarily by the Iranian authorities like this.
“As well as Morad, Iran is still holding the British trade unionist Mehran Raoof behind bars on trumped-up charges – they both to be released as soon as possible.
“We hope Liz Truss will now do what’s needed – apply sustained pressure on Tehran for Morad’s permanent release and his speedy return home to the UK along with his wife.”