Iran Daily: Family — Officials Lied About Environmentalist’s Death in Custody


The family of Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami (pictured), a leading environmentalist in Iran, has rejected the regime’s latest account over his death in custody.

Seyed-Emami, an Iranian-Canadian dual national and the Managing Director of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation, was arrested on January 24 on unspecified charges. His family was notified on February 9 of his death, with officials later declaring that he had hung himself in the bathroom of his cell.

A day later, the Tehran Prosecutor announced the arrest of seven other staff of the Foundation, including an Iranian-American national. The regime has subsequently put out a series of explanations for the detentions, including claims that the political prisoners were spying on Iran’s nuclear facilities and gathering environmental information that they passed to the US.

On Tuesday, conservative Iranian outlets said Seyed-Emami’s family had accepted that he killed himself, after being shown a film by officials. They said that the family had not requested an autopsy and that the case was not closed.

But both the lawyer for the family and a family member or close friend disputed the account.

The “source with knowledge of the case” said, “We didn’t see the act of suicide in the 2-3 hour film. We are hoping that the investigation will clarify why he was detained and interrogated.”

Seyed-Emami’s family have been told by authorities not to speak to the media.

However, lawyer Payam Derafshan disputed that the family had accepted the medical verdict: “Tehran’s Forensic Medicine Department and the Iranian coroner’s office have carried out an autopsy on Emami’s body, but a death certificate takes a month to be issued.”

Derafshan also told a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper that he had seen no clear sign of suicide in the film shown to the family.

Regime Claims of the CIA, Mossad, and “Atomic Lizards”

There has been no further news of the status of the seven environmentalists who are still detained.

Instead on Tuesday, officials set out new versions of the “crimes” of the accused. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said, “The detainees…were gathering intelligence from sensitive and vital sites of the country, including the country’s missile bases according to the CIA and Mossad intelligence officers’ guidelines.”

He claimed the detainees used environmental issues as a cover to install cameras in strategic sites. He also accused them of creating “environmental crises” and transferring data to the US.

Doulatabadi said the guilt of the political prisoners was established by their attendance of conferences in Israel of MENARID, an organization pursuing integration of management of natural resources. The prosecutor then apparently referred to one of the detained staff, Iranian-American national Morad Tahbaz, accusing him and Kavous Seyed Emami — who died in custody — of being the liaisons for the CIA.

Hassan Firouzabadi, senior military advisor to the Supreme Leader and former armed forces Chief of Staff, said he did not know the details of the case. But he then supported the detentions by saying Western spies had used lizards which could “attract atomic waves” to spy on the nuclear program:

Several years ago, some individuals came to Iran to collect aid for Palestine….We were suspicious of the route they chose.

In their possession were a variety of reptile desert species like lizards, chameleons….We found out that their skin attracts atomic waves and that they were nuclear spies who wanted to find out where inside the Islamic Republic of Iran we have uranium mines and where we are engaged in atomic activities.

Top Environment Official Still “Under Revolutionary Guards’ Control”?

Meanwhile, reports are circulating that senior Environment Department official Kaveh Madani, released on Monday after a weekend detention, is still being supervised by the Revolutionary Guards.

The Department issued a high-profile statement on Monday over Madani’s release, displaying a photo of him in a meeting between Environment Minister Isa Kalantari and the German Ambassador.

But claims spread yesterday that Madani’s appearance had been stage-managed after his interrogation on Sunday and Monday. Sources said security forces accompanied Madani as he left the Department building and that he may have been returning to custody.

Madani’s social media accounts were suspended on Sunday. His Twitter account later reappeared, but without the blue tick mark of verified identity.

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  1. The source with knowledge of the case” said, “We didn’t see the act of suicide in the 2-3 hour film. We are hoping that the investigation will clarify why he was detained and interrogated.”

    Firstly, unnamed sources cannot be verified and their accounts corroborated. Secondly, yes, the film does not show the actual suicide because it happened in the cell toilet where there was no camera present.

    The family lawyer, Payam Derafshan, has confirmed there was a post-mortem carried out at the request of the family. He also have this statement to ILNA: “Because there is not a good angle… the act of suicide is not clear,” :

    In the Radio Farda interview with Derafshan, he suggests the possibility that Seyed-Emami may have suffered a stroke and that blood tests are being carried out. He also wants clarification about any medication that was given to him by the prison officials:

    Nowhere in these reports do the family reject the claim of suicide. They just want more answers.

  2. “He claimed the detainees used environmental issues as a cover to install cameras in strategic sites. He also accused them of creating “environmental crises” and transferring data to the US.”

    One way for the Americans to get the “anywhere anytime” inspections they want is to get environmentalists to do the work for them by taking soil samples of areas where they suspect there may be secret nuclear work. Everything is beginning to make perfect sense.

    • That’s not perfect sense. That’s a regime conspiracy theory to justify holding political prisoners — but useful to see it so blatantly presented here.

      • So why would the authorities detain certain environmentalists (the vast majority have not been arrested) unless they suspected them of conducting espionage? What grounds have you to categorically claim they were not involved in such activities? Dr. Seyed Emami was not a political opponent or anything like that. Neither was Shahram Amiri, whom the media hailed as a hero until it was revealed he was a spy.

        Secondly, environmental research is absolutely perfect cover for espionage on Iran’s natural resources and possibly secret military and nuclear installations. Can’t think of anything better myself?

          • Almost for sure, there are spies. among scientists, journalists, academics, officials and activists inside of Iran that have yet to be arrested. It would be ridiculous to claim otherwise (the CIA and Mossad would not be doing their job). But if you are arrested for spying, it doesn’t make you a “political prisoner” even if you are accused of a political crime (espionage,treason etc).

            • Yes, they are political prisoners, seized for reasons include factional fighting inside regime. There is no evidence of spying.

  3. Once again, where does the family state that officials lied about the circumstances of Seyed-Emami’s death in custody? I can’t find this anywhere. I can only find statements that they are not certain and 100% satisfied with the explanation and evidence presented and want more answers.

    Btw, Farnaz Fassihi of the WSJ is claiming he was arrested and detained by the IRGC. Again, I can’t find this anywhere.

    • No, the families are not satisfied and are denying that they accepted the explanation of the authorities — i.e., the authorities are lying.

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