Daughter of Iran detainee Morad Tahbaz urges UK to 'bring him home'

Roxanne Tahbaz begins protest over 'betrayal' of her father by UK government

A woman whose father, a British-US citizen, is detained by Iran has started a protest in London to urge the UK to "bring him home".

Roxanne Tahbaz began her campaign on Wednesday outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) after her father, wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, 66, was returned to custody after furlough from Evin prison last month.

She says her family had been “misled” about the possibility of his release.

Mr Tahbaz was back in custody days after British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori were freed by Iran.

Ms Tahbaz said her family was led to believe that her father would be included in any release deal negotiated at the time.

"We’re here today because it’s been one month since Nazanin and Anoosheh have come home, and my father’s still sitting in prison and my mother’s still on a travel ban," she said.

“[We're hoping] to call on the government and on the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to keep her promise and bring him home to us, so we can be reunited as a family.

"We want them to follow through on the promise they made to us – we were always led to believe over the past four-plus years that he was to be a part of any deal they were making, and we were led to believe he’d be coming home as part of that.”

Roxanne Tahbaz, the daughter of Morad Tahbaz, who is imprisoned in Iran, is protesting in London against his incarceration and pleading for his release. Getty

In March, the UK said it had won Mr Tahbaz’s furlough along with the release and return of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori.

It came after the government agreed to settle a £400 million ($521m) debt to Iran dating back to the 1970s.

But two days later Mr Tahbaz was forced to return to Evin.

“We’ve pleaded and begged and been very vocal about wanting the government to keep its promise, it’s been four weeks and nothing has changed for us as a family,” his daughter said.

"I think my dad made it very clear that he feels abandoned and that’s why I’m here today – to make sure that he’s no longer left behind."

Roxanne Tahbaz holds a photograph of her father outside the Foreign Office in London. Getty

Richard Ratcliffe, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, said he hopes the UK is “still working on a breakthrough” for Mr Tahbaz, along with British-Iranian citizen Mehran Raoof, who is also held in Iran.

“It is always bittersweet whenever there’s a release for those who are left behind in Evin prison,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

“Nazanin and I remember the feeling — others’ happiness that can feel so bleak, can leave you staring blankly at a wall of questions: ‘Why? Did we not matter enough?’

“I hope the UK is still working on a breakthrough for Morad and Mehran that we don’t know about, and that the embassy is going to get to see them in Evin and ensure they are safe in the meantime.

“I also hope the foreign secretary stays true to her word on Nazanin’s release and continues the work to end hostage diplomacy and also holds those who practise it accountable. These games hurt too many lives.”

Ms Tahbaz (L) at a press conference alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe after Nazanin's release from detention in Iran. Reuters

Mr Tahbaz was arrested during operations against environmental campaigners in January 2018.

He is a conservationist and board member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which seeks to protect endangered species.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with his colleagues on charges of spying for the US and undermining Iran’s security.

“After the euphoria of Nazanin and Anoosheh’s release, Morad and fellow UK national Mehran Raoof have been left behind. Liz Truss has let Morad down and is letting Mehran down,” said Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK.

“The government’s attitude seems to be ‘it’s job done’ now that Nazanin and Anoosheh are back — but this won’t be over until all the arbitrarily jailed British nationals are free and back home.”

Mr Tahbaz’s wife Vida is under a travel ban by Iranian authorities, Amnesty said.

The FCDO claims Iran has not honoured its commitment to release him.

“The Iranian government committed to releasing Morad from prison on an indefinite furlough. Iran has failed to honour that commitment," it said.

“Continuing his horrendous ordeal sends a clear message to the international community that Iran does not honour its commitments. We continue to urge the Iranian authorities at every opportunity to release him immediately.”

Updated: April 13, 2022, 1:42 PM
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