Evin inmate Morad Tahbaz ends hunger strike over failed deal with Iran

Conservationist's family say they urged him to eat because of fears for his health

Morad Tahbaz. Photo: Morad Tahbaz/Facebook
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Jailed Briton Morad Tahbaz has ended his hunger-strike in Iran's Evin prison after the collapse of the deal between the UK and Iranian governments that was supposed to lead to him being freed, his family has said.

Mr Tahbaz, who has British, Iranian and US citizenship, finished his protest on day nine at the request of his family who feared further health problems. He has been treated for cancer during his time behind bars.

The 66-year-old conservationist was part of an agreement struck between the two governments that saw the UK pay an arms deal debt of nearly £400 million ($527m) while two dual-nationals held on trumped-up charges came back to Britain.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, and Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, arrived back in the UK on March 17 but Mr Tahbaz, who was born in London, was taken back to jail after a brief period at home in Tehran.

British officials said it was to have an ankle tag fitted but his anticipated release to a hotel did not happen. He remains at Evin jail where he is serving a 10-year sentence accused of spying for the US but his supporters say he is being used as a negotiating tool in a broader diplomatic battle by Tehran.

“We’ve been told by the [UK’s] Foreign Office that they're working on everything, that it is more complicated, because he's being seen as American,” his daughter Roxanne told the BBC.

“But ultimately, he's stuck in this political chess game, but as a pawn, and we feel that no one's really protecting him now, because this country's left him behind and being British and British-born, no less, really should have saved him from that fate.”

She said the promise made to them was broken that Mr Tahbaz would be part of the release deal and that a travel ban on his wife in Iran would be lifted.

Roxanne Tahbaz, the daughter of Morad Tahbaz, says that her father has given up his hunger-strike. AFP

She said UK government comments that he had been released from prison were “devastating” because the family did not want him to be forgotten or for people to stop fighting for him because they thought he was safe at home.

“Because he's not home. He's still in prison. He's still not free. And it was really essential to us and I think to him as well, that he not be forgotten and left there to wither away," she said.

“I think it's time for him to be back with his family.”

Mr Tahbaz was part of a group of conservationists from the Tehran-based Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation which had been licensed to operate in Iran by the government, but they were arrested in January 2018.

A senior figure from the group died while interrogations were held at Evin prison, said the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran. The eight were convicted after a case based partly on a retracted forced confession.

The UK government said it was working closely with the US to secure his permanent release and departure from Iran.

Updated: March 29, 2022, 10:19 AM