Conservation news

Conservationist, imprisoned for ‘spying’ with wildlife camera traps, dies in Iranian prison

Kavous Seyed Emami. Photo courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Kavous Seyed Emami. Photo courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran.

  • Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month.
  • Iranian authorities say Seyed Emami committed suicide, an assertion his family doubts.
  • Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time.

Kavous Seyed Emami, a professor of sociology and a director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, died in Tehran’s Evin Prison earlier this month. Iranian authorities said he committed suicide after confessing to crimes, an assertion his sons say they doubt.

Seyed Emami was arrested on January 24 and accused of spying for the U.S. and Israel, having “installed cameras in the country’s strategic locations to monitor Iran’s missile activities, sending information to foreigners,” the Tehran prosecutor, Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, said, according to a detailed report today in the New York Times.

“It’s just all so ridiculous, we don’t even know where to start,” Seyed Emami’s son Ramin Emami told the paper. “Those cameras, for instance, are for shooting wildlife, their range doesn’t go beyond 25 meters. They are cheap and can be bought anywhere. Even if they wanted — which they didn’t — how could they spy on the missile program with those?”

Kavous Seyed Emami. Photo courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Authorities have prohibited the family from securing an independent autopsy, seized the deed to the family’s house, and warned family members not to speak out about the case, according to the paper.

Seyed Emami’s arrest and suspicious death appear to be part of a wider crack down on environmentalists, and come at a time of deepening social and political tension in Iran. Authorities arrested at least six other conservationists around the same time, many of them also affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, according to the New York-based NGO Center for Human Rights in Iran. As of February 15, they were being detained without access to legal council, the center wrote on its website.

The death and arrests are beginning to attract international attention. “Mr Emami’s death is extremely disturbing. Not only was he arrested on flimsy charges, but his death in custody strongly suggests foul play. The Iranian authorities must urgently allow a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into the circumstances and causes of Mr. Emami’s death,” reads a statement posted today on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Kavous Seyed Emami and his son Ramin Emami. Photo courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Banner image: Kavous Seyed Emami. Photo courtesy of Center for Human Rights in Iran.

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