Prolonged Detention of Environmentalists “None of Your Business,” Iran’s Judiciary Tells Vice President
The chief of Iran’s Department of Environment, Vice President Isa Kalantari, has told state media that the judiciary has warned him to stop enquiring about environmentalists who have been detained for the past six months.
“The judiciary has ordered us not to get involved,” Kalantari said in an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency on August 13, 2018. “They told us this is none of our business and we shouldn’t pursue it.”
“The esteemed intelligence minister has repeatedly said there is no evidence that the detainees had spied and yet the judiciary has still not resolved their situation,” Kalantari added. “Almost all of our NGOs are at a standstill because they don’t know to what extent they can operate without being accused of spying.”
Since late January 2018, dozens of environmentalists have been detained in several cities including Tehran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Opposition-run websites have reported that some of the environmentalists were arrested for opposing the state’s building of missile sites on environmentally sensitive land in Iran.
The Intelligence Ministry, which operates under President Hassan Rouhani while the IRGC answers only to the supreme leader, has noted that there is no evidence to support the IRGC’s claim that the environmentalists were spies.
“It has been determined that these individuals were detained without doing anything,” Kalantari previously stated on May 22, 2018. “The Intelligence Ministry has concluded that there is no evidence that these individuals were spies.”
“The government’s fact-finding committee has concluded that the detained activists should be released because there’s no evidence to prove the accusations leveled against these individuals,” he added.
Eight former and current staff members of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation (PHWF) have been detained since late January 2018: Sam Rajabi, Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz (also holds American citizenship), Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Taher Ghadirian, Houman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh.
The PHWF’s chairman, 63-year old Iranian-Canadian sociology professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, died under suspicious circumstances on February 9 while he was being held in Evin Prison for interrogations.
Judicial officials claimed Seyed-Emami had committed “suicide” before there was an autopsy.