More than three months after a fact-finding commission was set up by President Hassan Rouhani to investigate the recent spate of suspicious deaths in Iranian prisons, it has produced no results, according to the lawyer of a victim’s family.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda’s Mahtab Vahidi Rad, the lawyer, Payam Derafshan, disclosed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization is responsible for incarcerating scores of environmentalists in Tehran’s notorious prison, Evin.
Renowned sociologist and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, was detained in late January and pronounced dead two weeks later.
The Iranian judiciary has insisted the Iranian-Canadian environmentalist committed suicide after admitting espionage against Tehran.
At least 14 other environmentalists were detained along with Seyed-Emami whose fate is also shrouded in mystery.
The Intelligence Ministry and the head of the Environment Organization have repeatedly dismissed espionage allegations against the detained environmentalists.
Furthermore, state-run TV recently aired a report to support the allegations against Seyed-Emami and his detained fellow environmentalists.
However, Derafshan, representing Seyed-Emami’s family, dismissed the film as a collage of “family” and “private” pictures and videos with “horrifying music” to brainwash audiences.
“It shows Seyed-Emami and his family walking in the countryside, wearing sunglasses. Immediately after that, the logo of the CIA appears onscreen,” Derafshan told Radio Farda. “By placing sunglasses side beside the logo, the producers of the show have tried to suggest that Seyed-Emami has been involved in espionage.”
The show also focuses on a fishing rod, presenting it as a “highly complicated gadget for secret communications with spying stations abroad."
“Seyed-Emami’s relatives have explained that the scene broadcast on state TV shows them eating pumpkin seeds while listening to a sports report on a radio receiver installed on the fishing rod,” Derafshan said. "It’s saddening that instead of searching for the truth about Seyed-Emami’s suspicious death inside the prison they are smearing the whole family by broadcasting outlandish TV shows.”
Derafshan lamented that the judiciary officials responsible for Seyed-Emami’s case have not yet allowed the lawyers to see the so-called collected evidence against the late environmentalist.
According to Derafshan, the families of the remaining detainees are under pressure to keep quiet about their loved ones behind bars.
Seyed-Emami’s wife, Iranian-Canadian Maryam Mombeini has been barred from leaving Iran and joining their sons.
“The Islamic Republic’s prosecuter-general office is responsible for barring people from leaving the country,” Derafshan told Radio Farda, adding, “Mombeini’s name is not on the list of people officially barred from leaving the country. Who exactly barred her from leaving Iran is still a mystery.”
Ramin, one of the sons of Seyed-Emami and Mombeini, says his mother has been living alone since the authorities barred her from leaving Iran on March 7.
“The trauma stemming from her husband’s death on February 8 has caused her extreme physiological distress,” said Ramin, who lives in Vancouver. “She has been going through so much emotionally and physically. And she doesn’t have her family to support her through this devastating time.”
In an interview with the Vancouver Sun, Ramin also said, “We just want her out of there, to get on with our lives.”
The Iranian judiciary has not yet commented on Mombini’s situation or why she has been banned from leaving Iran.
International human rights organizations, including the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) and Amnesty International (AI), have called upon the Iranian authorities to allow an independent investigation into the case.
“The authorities’ refusal to allow an independent investigation into the extremely suspicious death of Dr. Seyed-Emami smacks of a deliberately orchestrated attempt to cover up any evidence of torture and possible murder. He was detained in Evin prison, where detainees are held under constant surveillance,” AI said in a statement.