Widow Hospitalized After IRGC Storms Home of Iranian Canadian Who Died in Iranian State Custody
Tehran Prosecutor Ordered Raid to Gather Footage For a “Film”
The widow of an Iranian Canadian environmentalist who recently died in state custody in Iran has been hospitalized in Tehran after being interrogated for hours by agents who raided her home on June 25, 2018.Unidentified security agents stormed the home of Kavous Seyed-Emami and his grieving widow Maryam Mombeini, who was denied access to a lawyer while she was being interrogated.
According to one of her lawyers, Payam Derafshan, Mombeini became so distraught that she was heard screaming before passing out and being transferred to a hospital.
Mombeini was banned from leaving Iran for Canada with her two sons in March 2018. She was also hospitalized that month.
The raid was ordered by Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi to gather footage for a state-funded film alleging that environmentalists who have been detained around the country since January 2018 were collaborating with foreign intelligence services.
“Is Mr. Dowlatabadi the minister of culture and Islamic guidance? Why is he issuing permits to produce a film? Why should the Tehran prosecutor order a raid on a citizen’s home without due process? Why send 20 agents to storm a woman’s home? Were they trying to arrest a drug lord?” said Derafshan in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
At a press conference on June 26, Dowlatabadi confirmed the raid and said it was “definitely carried out with a legal warrant” but did not identify himself as the authority that ordered it.
Derafshan told CHRI that his colleague, attorney Arash Keykhosravi, was present at the scene when the raid took place.
“Mr. Keykhosravi, went to the home… but unfortunately the agents did not allow him to enter and so he stood outside the whole time this was going on,” he said.
“He asked the agents to show a warrant and they gave him one that was signed by Tehran Prosecutor Dowlatabadi for the making of a film called ‘Hoboot’ [Downfall],” he added.
Often produced by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Iranian security establishment has a documented history of using conspiracy-focused films to smear and rally public opinion against defendants detained on politically motivated charges.
IRIB has already aired a film about Seyed-Emami, who has been accused of engaging in espionage despite never being tried for any crime.
Raid Conducted During Iranian World Cup Match, Says Son
The Seyed-Emami family home was raided and his wife interrogated while most Iranians were glued to their TVs watching a World Cup match between Iran’s national team and Spain.
“This is no longer a legal matter. It’s a humanitarian issue. Why are they behaving this way? With Iran going through such a difficult period, don’t they have better and more important things to do?” Mehran Seyed-Emami told CHRI on June 26.
“In addition to all the pressure being put on my mother, they have also banned her from traveling so that she won’t be able to be with her sons [in Canada],” he said.
Mehran Seyed-Emami also told CHRI that the agents who raided his home were focused on the family home’s basement.
“The agents asked my mother about how often my father had gone into the basement and what was kept there and my mother told them there were some hiking and camping gear and equipment belonging to my brother, Ramin, who had built a soundproof studio there to produce his music,” he added.
The day before the raid, Mombeini was summoned to court ostensibly regarding her legal fight against the travel ban, but was instead questioned for several hours about her husband.
“She was ordered over the phone to make an appearance without a written warrant and we thought it was a good idea for her to comply because it was possible that the travel ban was going to be lifted,” Derafshan told CHRI.
“But when Ms. Mombeini went there, she was asked questions for several hours about Mr. Seyed-Emami,” he added.
Mehran Seyed-Emami told CHRI that one of the three agents who interrogated his mother at the judiciary was the same person who informed her of her husband’s death after hours of interrogating her on February 9, 2018, in Evin Prison.
“Her lawyers were not allowed to accompany her to the judiciary where she was mostly asked questions about my father and his trips abroad,” he said. “They asked her what he was doing in Canada, or why he had traveled to Africa and Afghanistan. He made all these trips for academic reasons and there are documents to prove that.”
He continued: “Or they asked her about my father’s contacts with United Nations’ officials and ambassadors, which is very normal for an academic and environmentalist of his stature. My mother was also shown private family photos and asked who this and that person were.”
Despite dying under extremely suspicious circumstances in state custody in February 2018 after being arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the authorities have failed to investigate the circumstances surrounding Seyed-Emami’s death and have not released an official autopsy report.
Since late January 2018, IRGC agents have detained dozens of environmentalists, many of them affiliated with the Iran-based Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation, which Seyed-Emami worked for as managing director until his death.
Iran’s judiciary plays the paramount role in suppressing dissent and prosecuting dissidents, often on charges of “acting against national security.” Working closely with intelligence services, the judiciary has for decades tried a wide range of opponents and critics, from students and street protestors to civil society activists and political reformers.
Trials are often criticized for lack of evidence and not conforming to fundamental standards of due process. Detainees can be held for long periods in solitary confinement. Many are denied access to their lawyers. Verdicts are often based on “confessions” extracted during interrogations. And many are sentenced to lengthy prison terms.