London, 12 Feb – In an open letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, leading academics in Iran have demanded answers relating to the alleged suicide of a distinguished environmentalist in prison.
Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor at Imam Sadegh University and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died just two weeks after he was arrested and taken to prison on vague charges of spying.
On Saturday, February 10, his family were told that he had committed suicide and a judiciary official said, on Sunday, that Emami had confessed to crimes related to espionage.
That is when four leading academic societies featuring professors from Iran’s top universities in the fields of political science, sociology, peace studies and cultural studies decided to seek answers about the 63-year-old’s death.
In the letter, the professors made it clear that they did not believe the charges levied against him or the seven other members of his wildlife NGO who are still behind bars.
They wrote: “The news of the death of Dr Kavous Seyed Emami has astounded and shocked the scientific community and the environmental activists of the country. In addition to being a well-known professor, a distinguished scientist and war veteran … he was a noble and ethical human being. The news and rumours related to his arrest and death are not believable.”
They demanded a full investigation into the case and into his death, which they see as suspicious.
They wrote: “Our minimum expectation is that you take immediate and effective action to seriously investigate the case … and make the institutions involved in this painful loss accountable.”
Iran has a long history of dressing up deaths in custody, whether through torture, neglect, or extrajudicial killings, as suicides. In the current widespread Iranian protests, 12 detainees have died under torture and their deaths have been covered up as suicides.
Iranian judiciary representative Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie claimed to have no knowledge of the death, other than that it was a suicide, but confirmed that an investigation would be carried out.
It is unclear whether the investigation will find the truth because Iran has a history of hiding evidence of their guilt.
Additionally, Iranian MP Mahmoud Sadeghi tweeted that Iran has also arrested Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the Environment Protection Organisation.
A senior EPO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that this was incorrect, but why would the official not give their name? Why would Madini not make the statement himself? And why would an Iranian politician claim that Madani had been arrested?
Either way, it seems likely that the Regime is cracking down on environmental activists but it isn’t clear why.