Tehran must release UK-US-Iranian national held on ‘bogus’ charges: HRW

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has slammed Tehran’s continued use of dual and foreign nationals as “bargaining chips,” following news that a British-American-Iranian national has ended a hunger strike he began upon being abruخptly returned to jail.

Morad Tahbaz was briefly released from jail for two days at the same time that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori — both British-Iranian dual nationals — were returned to the UK.

But Tahbaz was abruptly returned to prison two days later. He ended a hunger strike on Tuesday that he began when he was sent back to jail.

It is widely thought that his US citizenship means he was treated differently to Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori.

Tahbaz was detained in 2018 by Iranian authorities alongside a group of other environmentalists while on a wildlife conservation trip. He was accused of spying on Iran.

“It is abhorrent that Iranian officials continue to use dual and foreign nationals detained in Iran as bargaining chips,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at HRW. 

“It is also particularly disappointing that British authorities did not do enough to ensure Iran would uphold the conditions they agreed to for Tahbaz’s furlough.”

HRW said: “Over the past four years, the authorities have tortured the detainees and committed other serious violations of their due process and fair trial rights, while failing to provide any evidence to support the bogus allegations against them.”

A source told HRW that on March 16 the authorities took Tahbaz home, accompanied by several of Tehran’s agents, who stayed at his house for 48 hours then took him away again to an undisclosed location. 

On March 21, a spokesperson for the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said Tahbaz was transferred to a hotel room in Tehran.

The source told HRW that after his family refused to meet with him at the hotel for fear that the Iranian authorities would use it as a photo-op, the authorities returned Tahbaz to prison.

According to HRW, “on several occasions senior Iranian government officials have indicated that they did not find any evidence to suggest that the detained activists are spies.”

Some have already died in Iranian detention, and the health of Tahbaz, who is suffering from cancer and has caught COVID-19 twice, is also at risk. He “has not had adequate medical care,” HRW said.

Sepehri Far said: “Governments engaging with Iranian authorities should press them to release the .wrongfully detained activists

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