May 30, 2018

The Iranian authorities have arrested another 20 environmental activists in the south of Iran on unspecified charges, according to Payam Derafshan, the lawyer representing the family of another prominent environmentalist, Kavus Seyyed Emami, who died in Tehran’s Evin Prison a day after his arrest. Derafshan was speaking to ISNA (the Iranian Students News Agency).

Mr. Emami and six other members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), a non-profit organization, were arrested on charges of espionage in February of this year. Mr. Emami, a sociologist and faculty member at Imam Sadeq University, reportedly killed himself at Evin prison the day after his arrest.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) also detained Mr. Emami’s colleagues Hooman Jokar; the treasurer and director of the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP); and Niloufar Bayani; the CAPA project manager and former adviser to the UN Environment Program.

The prosecutor’s office has not clarified the exact charges against these individuals. But according to the IRGC’s Intelligence Protection Organization, those arrested “spied on Iran’s missile program while posing as environmental activists.”

The IRGC has reportedly arrested 50 environmentalists in the past few months.

The authorities have released some of the jailed conservationists in the past few weeks, including Alireza Farhadzadeh, Baqer Zare, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh and Morteza Ariyan-Nejad. Mr. Farhadzadeh is a documentary filmmaker best known for his film “Rooz-e Yooz” (“The Day of the Cheetah”).

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Intelligence and the Security Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) have released a joint statement declaring that the jailed environmental activists were not spies and that there was no evidence to the contrary.

Mahmoud Sadeqi, a Majlis deputy representing Tehran, Rey, Shemiranat, and Eslamshahr, has said that the IRGC’s Intelligence Protection Organization extracted confessions from those arrested not only about their own espionage activities but about that of others.

President Hassan Rouhani’s “Truth Committee” has not tried to secure the release of these individuals or investigate the actions of the IRGC and other security agencies.

Meanwhile, Emami’s wife, Mrs. Maryam Mombeini, has been banned from leaving the country. Derafshan said: “I went to the prosecutor’s office for security to find out the reasons for the travel ban. We filed a petition with the Branch 1 of the investigative court, and discovered that there were no documents or court order of any kind, banning her from leaving the country.” He added: “Mrs. Mombeini has been hospitalized due to poor health.”