Daughter Says Jailed Iranian Environmental Activist Ends Hunger Strike

An Iranian-U.S.-British environmentalist who was convicted in Iran on what rights groups say were bogus national security charges has ended a weeklong hunger strike to protest his reincarceration.

Morad Tahbaz was released on March 16, the same day as two high-profile British citizens, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, who had been detained for more than five years, were freed and flown home to Britain.

But on March 20, Tahbaz's lawyer said that Iranian security officers had forced his client to return to the notorious Evin prison, prompting the 66-year-old activist to go on hunger strike in protest.

His daughter, Roxanne Tahbaz, told BBC radio on March 29 that he had ended the hunger strike but his state of health was a constant worry.

"He's had loads of health complications due to cancer that he suffered before and he needed quite regular monitoring and treatment," she added.

"Obviously, we're quite keen to have him home to make sure that he does have that, so that his long-term health isn't further impaired."

Britain says the situation has been complicated by the fact that Tahbaz is also a U.S. citizen, though his daughter remains critical of how the British government has handled the situation.

"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," she added.

Human Rights Watch said on March 29 that Iranian authorities should "immediately and unconditionally release" Tahbaz and other environmentalists wrongfully jailed with him.

"It is abhorrent that Iranian officials continue to use dual and foreign nationals detained in Iran as bargaining chips," HRW's Tara Sepehri Far said.

"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."

Tahbaz, a board member of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was arrested in January 2018 during a crackdown on environmental activists. He and seven others were accused of compiling classified information while pretending to carry out environmental work.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with the others on vague allegations of spying for the United States and undermining Iranian security.

It was not immediately clear if Tahbaz's return to prison was a temporary move or if he would be required to serve the final years of his 10-year sentence.

British and U.S. officials said they had been told he was returning to prison only to have an ankle tag attached, but his lawyer and family said they had no information on that.

The United States, Britain, and other countries have sought to secure the release of dozens of dual nationals detained by Iran.

Family members and human rights activists have accused Tehran of arresting the dual nationals on trumped-up charges to squeeze concessions out of Western governments.

The March 16 release of Tahbaz, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and Ashoori was reached as world leaders try to revive the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear pact.

Negotiations on renewing the deal have stalled over Russia's demand that its trade with Iran be guaranteed amid massive sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.