Iran has been under the rocks of criticism, since it has imprisoned a group of environmentalists on suspicion of espionage without any evidence. While the authorities have detained them, several Iranian activists came together to support these conservationists.
Over 1,000 civil society activists signed a letter to the Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani, urging him to resolve the case of the eight environmentalists imprisoned earlier this year.
In January, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence arm had detained seven environmentalists, who are members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, while the eighth was detained in February.
In February, one of the members of the Persian foundation, Kavous Seyed Emami died under disputed circumstances in the prison. The 63-year-old was a prominent Iranian-Canadian academic and environmentalist. Iranian authorities claimed that he committed suicide, but overseas family and friends of Emami have cast doubt on that assertion.
This week, 1,124 Iranian activists signed a letter that was posted on a Telegram channel dedicated to Emami. These signatories — current and former government officials, artists, environmentalists and other civil society activists — urged Larijani to resolve the “ambiguities” in the case of the detained environmentalists in a transparent way, while respecting their dignity.
They stated that the detainees are renowned for their work in protecting the wildlife of Iran and have not engaged in unlawful activity. However, there was no explicit demand for the release of the environmentalists.
Iranian lawyer Mohammad Hossein Aghasi sought to represent the eight detainees. In a statement last month, he said that he couldn’t understand why the judiciary revised its charges to ‘Corruption on earth’.
In the Iranian penal code, it is an extremely serious charge that pertains to national security, for which the maximum penalty is death.
He said, “Previously, the authorities were accusing [the detainees of] cooperation with foreign governments and agencies, so I don’t know how that has now changed to ‘sowing corruption on earth’.”
At a news conference on October 24, the Chief prosecutor of Tehran, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi accused the detainees of “seeking proximity to military sites under the cover of environmental projects and obtaining military information from those sites.”
On May 22, indicating a division within the Iranian foundation, a fact-finding committee of government ministers — Iran’s environmental department and intelligence ministry — announced that it has found no evidence of spying by the detainees.
While the committee’s exoneration of the environmentalists and the Iranian activists’ letter to Larijani are indicating a fight for justice, the Iranian Vice President and head of the environmental department, Isa Kalantari said that the powerful judiciary has blocked him and other officials from taking further action in the case.
“Nothing justifies the continued incarceration of these eight environmentalists, let alone charges leveled against them that could carry the death sentence,” head of New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, Hadi Ghaemi said in a statement released last month.
He added, “One detainee has already lost his life during this travesty of justice. Iran should immediately release the remaining detainees to prevent further loss of innocent life.”
While the Iranian activists have pleaded for the eight detainees, the intentions of the judiciary are completely vague. However, until they provide a strong proof for their claims, the judiciary itself is committing an offense, as Voltaire has precisely said– “It’s better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.”
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