LONDON: Relatives of a British prisoner who remains trapped in Iran say he is being used as a political pawn by the Iranian authorities.
The family of Morad Tahbaz, 66, hoped he would be released alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashori this week — but were left facing silence and disappointment.
Tahbaz, a joint British, US and Iranian citizen, is being used as a “pawn,” relatives told The Times.
His sister, Tarana Ahbaz, said: “We were in touch with them right up until two days before, when they told us there was great hope that all three were coming together. There was this build-up and then suddenly silence. The big conundrum now is that they have paid this debt and where does that leave my brother? What card do they have to play? You get a feeling after all this that he is a pawn.”
Tahbaz was arrested in Iran in 2018 while in the country for a wildlife conservation trip. He was accused of spying for the US.
The father of three has been released under house arrest and the UK government has vowed to secure his release. Iran is treating him as an American.
His sister said that the family is beginning to doubt British authorities’ ability to bring the Londoner home.
“It really has made us lose confidence in the Foreign Office’s efforts towards us,” she said.
When Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK, she used the widespread attention she was receiving to highlight Tahbaz’s plight.
She raised the issue of his captivity in a meeting with her local MP Tulip Siddiq.
Siddiq tweeted: “So lovely to have uplifting conversations with Richard and Nazanin today. They are both relentless in their pursuit of justice and raised the plight of Morad Tahbaz with me. Here I was hoping to sleep for a week…”
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that the government was working to secure the return of Tahbaz.
He said: “He also has American nationality, which has, in the eyes of the Iranians – not in ours, made his case more complicated.”
Cleverly added: “We will continue to work to secure his release and, obviously, we work in close coordination with the US on these issues as well.”