February 5, 2019
Several members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) have called on President Hassan Rouhani to pay attention to the situation of eight detained ecologists, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on Monday.
The environmentalists have been under “temporary arrest” by the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) for longer than a year now.
The Iranian Judiciary had initially accused the detainees of “espionage for foreigners” but recently added the charge of “corruption on Earth” to the indictments of some of them, a change that usually entails the death sentence.
According to ILNA, the lawmakers in their meeting with Rouhani called for observing legal regulations and giving the detainees the right to have their own defense lawyers, reminding him of the sensitivity Iranian society and international human rights watchers attach to the case.
It is not clear who the lawmakers were or where exactly they met with Rouhani, but the president was at the parliament on Monday, getting confirmation for his new health minister.
On Saturday, the eight detained men and women took part in their second court session where they were tried without being allowed to have their own lawyers. The court has appointed attorneys pre-selected by the conservative Judiciary.
The MPs also told Rouhani that the inmates’ family members have been demanding a meeting with the president for a long time, and asked Rouhani to set a date for a meeting with the families of the detained environmentalists.
Based on Iranian Constitutional Law, although the Judiciary is an independent branch of the government, the president is the official guarantor of the people’s civil rights, including the right of legal representation. However, the Iranian Judiciary does not allow political prisoners to have their own lawyers and appoints a number of regime insiders as lawyers against the detainees’ will.
On Saturday, while the hearing was taking place at a stage-managed court, reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi wrote in a tweet that the Supreme National Security Council has ruled that the detained environmentalists were not spies.
Sadeqi added in another tweet that a motion has been tabled at the parliament to amend the bill that defines “political offenses.”
Earlier, the Intelligence Ministry had also declared that the detained environmentalists were not spies. Iranian Environmental Agency Chief Isa Kalantari also said that the environmental activity was not espionage.
Nevertheless, the IRGC Intelligence Organization insists that the ecologists are spies. However, the organization has not presented any evidence to back the charges. Some unofficial accusations mentioned the fact that ecologists place monitoring cameras in various locations in the country and these are used to record “sensitive” information.
Both the Intelligence Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council are under the supervision of president Hassan Rouhani. Nevertheless he has not been observed defending the inmates’ rights at least in public. The lawmakers calling on him to meet with the families of the detainees probably wish to strip Rouhani of the excuse of not knowing about the case.