The condemnation of eight environmentalists, with a total of 58 years in prison sentences, has been upheld by a Revolutionary Court in Iran.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili confirmed on Tuesday that the appeals court upheld punishments from 6 to 10 years in prison against seven of the political prisoners for “cooperating with the hostile state of the US” and obtaining “illicit income”. A four-year sentence for Abdolreza Kouhpayeh was sustained for “assembly and collusion to act against national security”.
The court again failed to produce any evidence to support the allegations against the members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. They were seized in January and February 2018 as they carried environmental studies.
A ninth detainee, the Foundation’s head Prof. Kavous Sayed-Emami, died in suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s Evin Prison days after the initial arrests.
Niloufar Bayani and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American-Canadian national, were given 10-year terms and ordered them to return “illicit income”, calculated from Bayani’s salary from the UN Environment Program, where she worked prior to joining the wildlife group, by her six years of working there, a source told Human Rights Watch.
Houman Jokar and Taher Ghadirian were condemned to 8 years on the charge of “cooperating with the hostile states of the US and Israel through spying against the Islamic Republic and in favor of the foreign intelligence services of the CIA and Mossad”. Amir Hossein Khaleghian, Sepideh Kashani, and Sam Rajabi were handed 6 years for “participating in spying against the Islamic Republic”, “participating in cooperation with the hostile state of the US”, and “cooperating with the hostile state of the US”.
Issa Kalantari, the head of Iran’s Environmental Institution, said in May 2018 that a Ministerial committee concluded there was no evidence of espionage by the environmentalists.
Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi warned in October 2018 that four of the defendants could be given the death penalty for “sowing corruption on earth”. He declared, without support, that the researchers were “seeking proximity to military sites with the cover of the environmental projects and obtaining military information from them”.
Bayani said during a trial session in February 2019 that the defendants had been under psychological torture, coerced into making false confessions. She also wrote that she was threatened with injection of a substance in her arm and threatened with “photos of torture devices”.
The detainees were not allowed to choose legal representation. Instead, they had to choose from a judiciary-supplied list that had no human rights lawyers.