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UK-US environmentalist held on spy charges temporarily released from Iranian jail

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Morad Tahbaz, an environmental activist with British and American citizenships who is being held in Iran on charges of espionage, has been temporarily released from prison and is currently staying at his family home in Tehran, Britain said on Wednesday.

“The Tahbaz family have confirmed that Morad has been released from Evin Prison on leave and is at their home in Tehran,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.

Tahbaz, who is also an Iranian national, remained in jail in Tehran while British-Iranian dual nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori flew home in March after the British government repaid a historic debt to Tehran.

His daughter Roxanne has criticized the British government for “all along making them believe he was part of a deal they made for the other hostages”.

“Yet he is still there. He has been abandoned by his government,” she told AFP.

The British government insists it cannot guarantee his release because he is also a US citizen, and that the Iranians are also holding talks with officials from Washington.

“Morad is a tri-national and we continue to work closely with the United States to urge the Iranian authorities to release him permanently and allow his departure from Iran,” the State Department said on Wednesday.

A Tehran court sentenced Tahbaz to 10 years in prison in 2020 on charges of espionage, conspiracy with Washington and harming national security.

He and seven others convicted of similar charges worked with the environmental group Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation to track down endangered species and were arrested in early 2018 on suspicion of espionage.

The British Foreign Office told Tahbaz’s family that when the other hostages were released, Iran had agreed to release Tahbaz under an unlimited curfew.

But he was returned to Evin Prison in Tehran within 24 hours of his partial release, prompting him to go on a hunger strike.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on leave in March 2020, but was returned to Evin Prison after two weeks, before being fully released two years later.

(AFP)

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