Letter: Families Cite Seven Law Violations in Cases of Detained Wildlife Conservationists
Iran’s judiciary has violated at least seven laws in its handling of the cases of eight wildlife conservationists who’ve been detained on unfounded espionage charges since January 2017, according to the detainees’ families.
In a letter addressing Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, the families noted violations including torture, reliance on forced false “confessions” in the place of evidence, denial of counsel, and denial of bail.
The detainees—Niloufar Bayani, Morad Tahbaz, Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian, Sepideh Kashani, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi, and Abdolreza Kouhpayeh—all worked for the Tehran-based Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation before they were arrested nearly one and a half years ago. Managing director Kavous Seyed-Emami died under suspicious circumstances while held for interrogations in Tehran’s Evin Prison in February 2018.
Three major state agencies in Iran, including the country’s highest security body, the Supreme National Security Council, have refuted the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence organization’s allegation that the conservationists committed espionage.
Following is a translation of the letter that was obtained and translated by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi
The Respected Chief of the Judicial Branch
With greetings and respect,
Following our letters in February and April 2019, we again wish to turn Your Excellency’s attention to the following in regards to the case of the environmental activists:
After you accepted the post of chief justice, you correctly stated the following during your introductory meeting on March 11, 2019: “I do not wish to say that the implementation of justice is the same as enforcing the law. But for the time being, we can all agree on a common principle and that is the enforcement of the law.”
You then added: “No one, under any circumstances or in any position, has the right to circumvent or violate the law.”
In the past year and a half we have had a very bitter and difficult time with the lack of response and disregard for the law shown by the authorities, even more so than the pain of seeing our loved ones suffering in prison.
With your emphasis on the observance of the law as the new chief justice, it was our expectation that the judicial process regarding our loved ones would be halted. But nearly two months have gone by since our previous letter to Your Excellency in which we stated the various violations in this case and yet the judicial process has gone ahead.
Dr. Raisi, in Your Excellency’s opinion:
1- Was it not a violation of Articles 48 and 190 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations… that for almost a year after their arrest, all the suspects were denied the right to legal counsel, could not meet with their lawyers, and their families were not permitted by the court to freely choose their own lawyers?
2- Is it not a flagrant violation of Article 242 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations that states, “… the period of temporary detention in murder cases should not exceed two years and in all other cases one year” without exception, even in security cases, when our loved ones are still in temporary detention after a year and five months since their arrests, especially in the cases of Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh and Sepideh Kashani?
3- Is it not a violation of Article 237, 238 and 250 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations for the court to insist on the continued temporary detention of the other four—Morad Tahbaz, Houman Jowkar, Taher Ghadirian and Niloufar Bayani—in solitary confinement … even though 10 months have passed since the end of preliminary judicial investigations?
4- A year and a half after their arrests, the indictment presented in court made it clear that the prosecutor and the (Islamic Revolutionary) Guard Corp’s intelligence organization had no evidence against them and based its accusations only on confessions extracted under intense pressure. Is this not a violation of Article 60 of the Criminal Procedures Regulations, which reject confessions under such circumstances? Is it not unlawful when judicial authorities dismiss complaints from the detainees about gathering confessions under pressure, intimidation and torture?
5- The law insists that the accused should be present in court when the indictment is read. However, Niloufar Bayani was not transferred from detention to the court because she had objected to forced confessions extracted during interrogation. Is this not a violation of the law?
6- Is it not against judicial procedures to transfer the detainees to unknown locations and subject them to repetitive and threatening questioning even after the investigations were over and the indictment had been issued and read in court?
More than 510 days have passed since the detention of our loved ones, gentlemen 1) Morad Tahbaz, 2) Amir Hossein Khaleghi, 3) Sam Rajabi, 4) Houman Jowkar, 5) Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, 6) Taher Ghadirian, and ladies 1) Sepideh Kashani and 2) Niloufar Bayani on the basis of suspicions raised by the IRGC’s intelligence organization.
Only God Almighty knows what we have been through in the past year and a half in dealing with the authorities’ refusal to follow the law and give information about our loved ones who have been pressured and intimidated in solitary confinement and charged with something different every week and month…
From the very beginning of this case we have kept our calm, refrained from controversy and sought to help our loved ones purely through legal channels. We have also held several meetings with the relevant authorities to plead for their rights under the law.
We again ask you to fulfill your initial pledge to the people that no one, regardless of status, should ignore and violate the law under any circumstances. We call upon you to end the temporary detentions and release our loved ones.
The espionage charges against our loved ones should be reviewed by all relevant authorities and security agencies in light of different and contradictory statements made by various security agencies including the Intelligence Ministry, the Supreme National Security Council and the IRGC’s intelligence organization.
This would reinstate their rights and prevent their unjust prosecution on unfounded security charges.
We thank you in advance for your kind attention.
May God grant you success,
Families of the detained environmentalists