The family of a Briton who flew out of Iran on Monday in a $6bn (£4.8bn) prisoner swap has spoken of their joy at his release after six years in captivity.
wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz66-year-old, who also has Iranian citizenship, was rearrested in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on the same day as a charity worker. I don’t know Zaghari-Ratcliffe He was returned to the United Kingdom.
Tahbaz, who suffers from cancer, was arrested during a crackdown on environmental activists in January 2018.
His family released an emotional statement to X about the “surreal” release on Monday, saying: “We are very happy and relieved to finally have Morad and Vida free and on their way home after six years.
“We thank President Biden and his Administration for making the difficult but necessary decision to prioritize the lives of American citizens over politics. Thank you for leading with courage and compassion.”
They added: “Right now we are focused on the reunion of our family, the physical and mental health of Morad and Vida, and the path to recovering these lost years.”
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison along with his colleagues on vague charges of spying for the United States and undermining Iran’s security.
Rishi Sunak was “extremely pleased” that Mr Tahbaz’s “terrible experience” was over.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “By seeking to use foreign nationals as bargaining chips, the regime’s leaders are fatally undermining Iran’s credibility on the world stage. They must stop using foreign citizens for political negotiations.
“In terms of the UK’s involvement, we were not part of the US-Iran negotiations.”
Tahbaz was allowed to receive medical care on another temporary leave with his family in Tehran last July on the condition that he wear an ankle bracelet.
But his release finally came on Monday after a deal brokered in Doha between the United States and Iran unfrozen $6 billion in Tehran funds.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband said it was “very difficult” to see Tahbaz “left behind” in 2022 and that her family would feel “a mixture of trepidation and real hope and fear” before their plane took off.
Richard Ratcliffe told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “When you go through that experience, you certainly think something bad could happen at the last minute.
Sacha Deshmukh, executive director of Amnesty International UK, the rights group that campaigned for Morad’s release, criticized the government for failing to secure his release along with Nazanin.
He said: “This is a huge relief after what has been a terrible ordeal for Morad, who should never have been jailed in the first place.
“We are delighted for Morad and his family, who have campaigned tirelessly for his release, often fighting with UK officials who have never treated Morad’s plight with the urgency and seriousness it deserved.
“When Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were released last year, Morad was gravely let down by the UK government, even with empty promises from Liz Truss when she was Foreign Secretary.
“In all these years we hoped that the UK would have significantly upped its game when faced with the arbitrary detention of UK citizens abroad, yet it appears that almost nothing has been learned.”
Mehran Raoof, a British-Iranian citizen and labor rights activist, remains detained in Tehran’s Evin Prison after Revolutionary Guard officers arrested him in October 2020.
Sacha Deshmukh added: “UK officials are still keeping families at arm’s length with cookie-cutter responses and uninformative meetings, are too passive when they should be demanding consular visits and the ability to attend court hearings, and are not working collaboratively with countries. partners nowhere near. as much as they should.
“The Government needs to dramatically improve its procedures to avoid further unnecessary distress and suffering in cases like Morad’s, and now needs to urgently seek the release of Mehran Raoof, who has been arbitrarily imprisoned in Iran for almost three years, and Alaa Abd el- Fattah, who has also been arbitrarily imprisoned in Egypt for almost four years.”
The Foreign Office has been contacted for comment.
Tahbaz had reportedly been Use of camera traps to monitor endangered species.including the Persian leopard and the Asiatic cheetah.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed that environmentalists were committing espionage by photographing Iranian military facilities.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said: “Fortunately, Iran’s frozen assets in South Korea were released and, God willing, today the assets will begin to be fully controlled by the government and the nation.
“As for the prisoner exchange, it will take place today and five prisoners, citizens of the Islamic Republic, will be released from US prisons,” he added.
“Five imprisoned citizens who were in Iran will be handed over to the American side.”
He said two of the Iranian prisoners will remain in the United States.
The transfer of funds from Iran under the deal has drawn criticism from US Republicans who say President Joe Biden, a Democrat, is effectively paying a ransom for US citizens.