Iran environmentalist’s suicide in jail challenged

Kavous Seyed Emami, 64, was a leading member of the Persian Wildlife Foundation. But according to the prosecution he was part of an espionage ring organised by the CIA and Mossad. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards released a video that ostensibly backs the suicide theory; however, some Iranian lawmakers, activists and the dead man’s family have rejected the official version.


Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iranian-Canadian sociologist Kavous Seyed Emami was discretely buried Tuesday under a heavy downpour. About 200 people took part in the funeral ceremony in the small cemetery of the mountain village of Emameh, about 40 km from the capital, Tehran.

According to Iranian authorities, the scholar took his own life in Evin prison, a place where political prisoners and dissidents are held.  

Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said that Seyed-Emami was arrested on 24 January for being a member of a spying ring operated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Israel’s Mossad.

The 64-year-old Seyed-Emami was the managing director of the Persian Wildlife Foundation, one of Iran’s most important conservationist organisations focused on protecting the country’s biodiversity.

Last Friday (9 February), prison authorities urgently called the scholar's wife to inform her that he had taken his own life.

Family and friends have challenged the official version and do not believe that he committed suicide in his cell.

In Iran itself, many people, including moderate and progressive lawmakers, want to know what really happened as the affair has many loose ends.

An autopsy was recently performed, whose results are expected in the coming days. The dead man’s family are especially eager to see the post-mortem report.

Tehran Prosecutor Dolatabadi said the authorities had dismantled an espionage operation conducted by the CIA and Mossad designed to cause environmental crises.

According to the indictment, the Persian Wildlife Foundation was set up “about a decade ago” as a cover to collect “classified information in defence and missile fields.”

Its members had infiltrated the local scientific community and collected sensitive information, including data about missile bases.

For Prosecutor Dolatabadi, Seyed-Emami was one of the main contacts for US agents and an intelligence officer had stayed at his home.

Allegedly, one of the main financial backers of the network is an Iranian-American, Morad Tahbaz, who also holds British citizenship. He too is a member of the Persian Wildlife Foundation and was arrested last month.

Recently, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) released a video ostensibly showing Seyed-Emami’s last hours as evidence of the official claim of suicide. However, several Iranian lawmakers, after seeing it, have raised doubts about its veracity, and have demanded further investigations.

One of them is Ali Motahhari, a deputy speaker of Iran’s Majlis (parliament). He said that the video does not show the moment when the scholar took his own life by hanging himself with his shirt.

In fact, according to some anonymous sources, Seyed-Emami’s death is related to renewed infighting between Iran’s right-wing (Pasdaran and conservatives) and the moderate-reformist camp close to President Hassan Rouhani.

The bone of contention appears to be the president’s soft stance at home and towards the West, including the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) in 2015.

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