Iran returns dual US-UK citizen to prison after brief furlough

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A dual British-US national released from prison last week as part of a deal between Iran and the United Kingdom has been returned to custody and today was transferred to a hotel, the British government says.

Iranian prison officials let the long-held 66-year-old environmentalist, Morad Tahbaz, leave jail on a furlough last Wednesday, the same day as two high-profile British citizens who had been detained in Iran for more than five years were freed and flown home to Britain.

The UK said it secured Tahbaz’s furlough, along with the release and return of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, after settling a long-standing debt to Iran that had fueled tensions between the countries for decades.

But barely two days after Tahbaz left jail and headed to his family’s home in Tehran, Iranian security forces forced him to return to Evin Prison, his Tehran-based lawyer says.

“Unfortunately, we have no idea if or when he is going to be released,” Hojjat Kermani tells The Associated Press. “He is back in Evin for the time being.”

Iranian officials and state-run media are not acknowledging Tahbaz’s return to prison. Iran’s mission to the United Nations also is not immediately responding to a request for comment, nor are officials in Iran’s judiciary office.

The State Department said that it is aware of reports that Tahbaz has been returned to prison, allegedly to be fitted with an ankle tag.

However, Tahbaz’s lawyer says he “was not informed about any ankle tag,” and two days later remains behind bars without any update.

“Iran made a commitment to the UK to furlough Morad Tahbaz,” the State Department says. “We are not a party to this arrangement, but would join the UK in considering anything short of Morad’s immediate furlough a violation of Iran’s commitment.”

The statement adds: “We are urgently consulting with the UK on appropriate responses.”

Iranian security forces arrested Tahbaz in January 2018, as part of wide crackdown targeting environmental activists in the Islamic Republic.

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