The eight environmentalists in the case — Sam Rajabi, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Hooman Jokar, Sepideh Kashani, Niloofar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh. (Supplied)

August 12, 2019

Social media users have interacted regarding the issue of eight environmentalists facing security charges in Iran, one week after they started a hunger strike. Two hashtags were launched to pressure Iran to release the activists.

Kaveh Madani, water management expert, tweeted that 564 days have passed since arresting the activists, and eight days since the hunger strike. He stressed that their only demand is to work based on justice.

Human Rights Watch said last week that the authorities should immediately release all eight environmentalist experts detained for over 18 months without being provided with the evidence concerning their alleged crimes.

“Members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation have languished behind bars for over 550 days while Iranian authorities have blatantly failed to provide a shred of evidence about their alleged crime,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The authorities should take the long-overdue step of releasing these defenders of Iran’s endangered wildlife and end this injustice against them,” Page added.

HRW quoted a reliable source as saying that the environmentalists on hunger strike are demanding that authorities end their legal limbo and either release them on bail until a verdict is issued against them or transfer them to the public ward of Evin prison.

They are inward 2-Alef of Evin prison, which is under the supervision of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization, the source added.

Their trial in Branch 15 of Tehran’s revolutionary court was halted before March, then resumed at the beginning of August. The court reportedly did not allow lawyers to review the evidence before the trial opened on January 30.

Article 48 of Iran’s 2014 criminal procedure law says that detainees charged with various offenses, including national or international security crimes, political, and media crimes, must select their lawyer from a pre-approved pool selected by Iran’s judiciary during the investigation.

Defendants had been under psycho-social torture and were coerced into making false confessions, experts said.

On February 10, 2018, a few weeks after their arrests, family members of Kavous Seyed Emami, a Canadian-Iranian professor and environmentalist arrested with the other members of the group, reported that he had died in detention under suspicious circumstances.

Iranian authorities claimed that he committed suicide, but they have not conducted an impartial investigation into his death.

Several senior Iranian government officials have said that they did not find any evidence to suggest that the detained activists are spies.

On May 22, 2018, Issa Kalantari, the head of Iran’s Environmental institution, said that the government had formed a committee consisting of the ministers of intelligence, interior, and justice and the president’s legal deputy, and that they had concluded there was no evidence to suggest those detained are spies.

Kalantari added that the committee said the environmentalists should be released.

On February 3, Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of parliament from Tehran, tweeted that according to the information he has received, the National Security Council headed by President Hassan Rouhani also did not deem the activities of their detained conservation activists to be spying.

On October 24, 2018, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, the Tehran prosecutor, said that the prosecutor’s office had elevated the charges against four of the detainees to “sowing corruption on earth,” which includes the risk of the death penalty.

Dolatabadi claimed that the activists were “seeking proximity to military sites with the cover of environmental projects and obtaining military information from them.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.