Human Rights Watch called on the Iranian authorities to
immediately release the eight environmental activists arrested and imprisoned
eight months ago without charges or evidence to justify their continued
“Iran’s judiciary is again highlighting its role as key functionaries in a repressive state machinery rather than defenders of justice," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, referring to the case of Iranian environmental activists arrested eight months ago, adding that Iran’s authorities “have still not come up with a criminal charge against them.”
“Iran’s leaders need to search no further for a source of simmering societal anger against them,” asserted Whitson, referring to “the judiciary’s despicable treatment of peaceful activists who are only trying to mitigate the country’s many serious problems, including environmental crises.”
According to an anonymous source who spoke to Human Rights Watch, the prosecutor's office said the detained environmental activists are accused of “sowing corruption on earth”, a charge that could bring the death penalty.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had previously arrested eight environmental rights activists from the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation on January 24.
"The detainees are accused of using environmental projects as a cover to collect strategic intelligence," said Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran's public prosecutor, a month after their arrest. So far, the Iranian authorities have not provided any information as to what “strategic intelligence” these individuals collected.
Among the detainees was Kavous Seyed Emami, a Canadian-Iranian university professor who died in prison under unknown circumstances. The Iranian authorities claimed he had committed suicide in detention, but there has been no impartial investigation. His wife was also threatened by the authorities not to talk about her husband's death to the media, and she has been banned from traveling.
Emami was the managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which seeks to protect rare Iranian plants and animals.
Iran faces a number of environmental crises, including water scarcity, air pollution and illegal fishing. Human rights groups say civil society activists in Iran face the risk of arbitrary arrest and harassment by authorities.