On Oct. 8, Iran’s Revolutionary Court issued preliminary indictments against five environmentalists who had been arrested earlier this year. All five have been accused of using environmental projects as a cover to collect classified strategic information, a charge that can carry a death sentence.

Within Iran’s academic circles, there exists a widespread opinion that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been locking up environmentalists because they have potential knowledge of the location of installations where radioactive isotopes and toxic chemicals may be contaminating the land.

To measure background radiation and chemical contamination of a certain area, one must walk through it with a radiation detector or take soil samples. This may explain paranoia of Iranian intelligence agents that have been detaining dozens of environmentalists and confiscating their electronic devices in various parts of the country. The map of the detentions gives a good idea of the locations of sensitive sites.

Among the environmentalists facing execution or long prison terms is an American citizen Morad Tahbaz, graduate of Columbia University, co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation. Members of the Foundation have openly opposed installation of underground nuclear and missile launch facilities on protected lands. Its managing director, Canadian citizen Kavous Seyed-Emami, detained last January together with Morad Tahbaz and seven others, died in Evin prison after intense interrogations soon after his arrest.

Prior to his detention Seyed-Emami taught sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran. According to his family, he was the happiest man on Earth. Authorities claimed that he committed suicide in his prison cell but denied the family’s request for independent autopsy. His widow was interrogated and banned from returning to Canada, her passport confiscated.

At about the same time, security forces briefly detained the deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment, Kaveh Madani. A U.S.-educated scientist, recipient of international awards, Madani had been praised last year by the Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as an example of the reversal of the brain drain from the country. Following his release after a three-day detention, Madani accepted a professor position at the Centre for Environmental Policy of the Imperial College in London and left Iran.

Numerous human rights and media organizations have come to the defense of the imprisoned environmentalists. Amnesty International has accused revolutionary guards of torturing prisoners and has demanded an independent investigation of professor Seyed-Emami’s death. Last April, 800 Iranian environmental scientists signed a letter to president Hassan Rouhani protesting the unlawful detention of their colleagues.

In response, Rouhani appointed an investigative panel of high-level government officials. Last May, the panel concluded that the accused environmentalists had not committed any crime. This, however, has not led to their release, indicating a struggle between the elected officials and the IRGC that report directly to the leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.

The IRGC are de facto in charge of all cases believed to be related to the national security. Last August the Department of Environment was ordered to stop its efforts to prove that the environmentalists have not done anything wrong. A warning against “ meddling in judicial matters” has been issued to the DoE head Isa Kalantani.

The secrecy surrounding detention of the environmentalists leaves little doubt about its relation to military programs. The prisoners have been held incommunicado since January, no visits allowed. They have been asked to select attorneys from a pre-approved list of 20 names that did not include any human rights lawyers. With this requirement in place, no access of the accused to their attorneys has been permitted so far.

Once set in motion, the 21st century inquisition machine will not stop until the victims are crushed. The first indictments issued to the environmentalists this month open the way for trials by the Revolutionary Court — an arm of the IRGC — presided over by one of its “hanging judges.” This will be another shameful page in the history of the country known as the Cradle of Civilization.

Source » washingtonexaminer