February 18, 2020

Iran Court Upholds Cruel Sentences for Iranian Environmentalists

It has been two years since the arrest and detention of nine Iranian environmentalists by Iranian authorities. The environmentalists were accused of “spying” after filming an endangered cheetah and doing work that is standard in their field. The first tragedy came soon after their arrest, when one of the activists, Kavous Seyed Emami—an Iranian-Canadian professor and prominent environmentalist—died in custody.

These environmentalists have worked towards animal conservation in Iran and bringing attention to critical issues of environmental concern. Unfairly detained on spurious charges such as “acting against national security,” Iranian authorities have not provided any evidence to the public to justify these charges. At the height of protests in Iran and a brutal crackdown in November 2019, Iranian courts delivered harsh prison sentences to the eight remaining environmentalists after Seyed Emami’s death, which include: Niloufar Bayani, Hooman Jowkar, Sepideh Kashani and her husband Taher Qadirian, Amir-Hossein Khaleqi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, Sam Rajabi, and Morad Tahbaz.

Unfortunately, reports today confirm that their appeal was unsuccessful and Iranian courts upheld the earlier baseless decision and long sentences, ranging 4-10 years. To make matters worse, reports of torture and maltreatment have also surfaced, revealing the scope of human rights abuses at issue in this case. Not only have due process, unjust detainment and treatment of those in custody been violated, the environment itself is a human rights issue.

The importance of the environment and concerns over climate change have brought this case to the attention of prominent environmentalists and celebrities such as Jane Goodall and Leonardo DiCaprio. Despite these pleas and the human rights obligations to which they are bound, Iranian courts and authorities continue to disobey their human rights responsibilities. Environmentalists must not only be free to do their important work, they should also be celebrated for their commitment to safeguarding the planet.

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