On Wednesday, October 24, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that four of the activists arrested in January and February were being charged with “sowing corruption on earth,” which carries the death penalty, after accusing them of spying of Iran’s military and nuclear sites when they were tracking the endangered Asiatic cheetah.
Michael Page, deputy Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Iran’s judiciary appears determined to pursue serious charges against these environmental activists no matter how ridiculous the allegations of wrongdoing are and despite the continuing denial of the defendants’ right to see a lawyer of their choice. With the judiciary serving as one of the main cornerstones in Iran’s apparatus of repression, there is a major risk that they won’t get a fair trial.”
The Regime’s Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence organization arrested eight members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation on January 24 and 25:
1. Houman Jokar
2. Sepideh Kashani
3. Niloufar Bayani
4. Amirhossein Khaleghi
5. Sam Rajabi
6. Taher Ghadirian
7. Kavous Seyed Emami, who has since died under suspicious circumstances in jail
8. Morad Tahbaz
On February 25, they also arrested environmentalist Abdoreza Kouhpayeh.
None of the activists has seen a lawyer of their choice – indeed, due to the Regime ridiculous national security law, political activists can only be represented by 20 lawyers approved by the Regime – and there is still no trial date set.
It’s worth noting that the PWHF had permission from the relevant authorities to monitor the areas that they were studying, which indicates that this is less a case of environmentalists stumbling onto a military site, than a case of the Regime making up any excuse to detain people with links to the West.
In fact, several senior Iranian government officials, including Issa Kalantari, the head of Iran’s Environmental Institution, have reported that there is no evidence that the activists were spies. Despite this, Kalantari said that the committee could no longer intervene.
The Iranian Regime’s actions in this case violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Iran is a party to. Under the ICCPR, the relevant authorities are required to:
• allow anyone facing criminal charges to see a lawyer of their choosing
• promptly inform any person who is arrested of the charges against them
• ensure a trial within a reasonable time