12 Conservationists Detained Without Counsel in Iran’s Kurdistan Province
Twelve of the 20 environmental conservationists arrested in Iran’s Kurdistan Province in January and February 2019 remain in detention centers run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence in the city of Sanandaj, the provincial capital, without access to legal counsel.
A local conservationist identified the detainees as Farhad Mohammadi, Hadi Kamangar, Issa Fayzi, Rashed Montazeri, Hossein Kamangar, Armin Asparlous, Avat Karimi, Edris Mohammadi, Farzad Hosseini, Homayoun Bahmani, Sirvan Ghorbani, and Jalal Rostami.
“A number of lawyers have volunteered to defend the prisoners but the judiciary’s office in Sanandaj has rejected their representation and denied them access to the case,” a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“They have not had any visitation and we don’t have any information about them,” added the source. “Every few weeks, they have made short phone calls to their families but they don’t utter anything about where they are being held.”
The source continued: “In addition to these twelve, several other detainees have been released on bail set at between 500 million tomans (approximately $118,681 USD) to 700 million tomans ($166,154 USD). Their phones and computers have been confiscated and they have been ordered to stay silent.
“But I was able to speak to one of them and learned that all of them are involved with the environment in some way or another and they have been accused of propaganda against the state, acting against national security and contact with opposition groups,” added the source.
On April 9, 2019, the Kurdistan Human Rights Network reported that after detainees Edris Mohammadi and Avat Karimi were interrogated, they were moved from the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Sanandaj to the IRGC’s Shahramfar Detention Center.
Some of the detainees are members of the Kurdish branch of the Iran National Unity Party (INUP), which has been licensed to operate in the country by the Interior Ministry.
Eight conservationists working for a licensed Tehran-based non-profit organization, the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), have been detained in Iran since January 2018 under false espionage charges.
The detainees—Niloufar Bayani, Tahbaz, Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi, and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh—are currently being tried based on forced “confessions” extracted under extreme physical and psychological pressure, according to the testimony of Bayani.
Three major state agencies in Iran, including the country’s highest security body, have stated that they did not commit espionage.
The detainees’ colleague Kavous Seyed-Emami, an Iranian-Canadian conservationist and the former managing director of the PWHF, died under suspicious circumstances while held for interrogations in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
The authorities claimed Seyed-Emami committed suicide but refused to allow his family to conduct an independent investigation or an independent autopsy.