Experts from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry have confirmed there is no evidence that a group of environmental activists arrested in January were engaging in espionage as accused.
“Based on indisputable evidence and documents, the Intelligence Ministry’s experts have explicitly declared that there is no proof for accusing the incarcerated environmentalists of espionage,” tweeted outspoken reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi May 9.
Sadeghi said Intelligence Ministry officials were responding to demands from conservative MPs that they bring official charges against the alleged spies.
Spokesman for the Islamic Republic’s judiciary, mid-ranking cleric Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje’ei maintains, however, that the Intelligence Ministry is not qualified to recognize acts of espionage and should leave that decision to the courts.
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) intelligence agents arrested several prominent environmentalists January 24, including the Iranian-Canadian founder of Iran’s Wildlife Heritage, Kavous Seyyed-Emami. Two weeks later, officials announced that Seyyed-Emami had committed suicide at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, a story Seyyed-Emami’s friends and family categorically reject.
Along with Seyyed-Emami, 13 other environmentalists were arrested and accused of espionage. They have since had only very limited access to legal council.
Those arrested are: Ms. Niloufar Bayani, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar, Ms. Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi, Morteza Arianejad, Alireza Farhadzadeh, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Hassan Ragh, brothers Aref and Hassan Zare’, and Iranian-American Morad Tahbaz.
The deputy head of Iran’s Environment Ministry, Kaveh Madani, cited their arrest as one of the reasons he feared for his own safety and secretly fled the country in April.
President Hassan Rouhani has not yet responded to an April 2 open letter signed by 800 Iranian environmentalists demanding clarification on the fate of their fellow environmentalists.
The families of the detainees say they have experienced extreme difficulty reaching their loved ones, who have been held without official charges.
“The detainees’ families have gone to the relevant agencies numerous times to make inquiries, but so far they have not been given any clear answers about the charges against them or where they are being held,” wrote the environmentalists in their letter to the president.