Iran jails six wildlife conservationists for 'spying' after tracking endangered species

Iran jails six wildlife conservationists for 'spying' after tracking endangered species
Iran has jailed a number of academics and conservationists in the country.
3 min read
21 November, 2019
The six conservationists have been detained for nearly two years []
Iran gave six wildlife conservationists jail sentences of up to ten years after being accused and jailed for alleged spying in remote areas of the country, their families said on Wednesday.

The group were part of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF) and have been in detention since early 2018 after using cameras to track endangered animals, according to the BBC.

Morad Tahbaz - who also holds British and American citizenships - and Niloufar Bayani were given ten-year sentences.

Taher Ghadirian and Houman Jokar got eight years, and Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi and Sepideh Kashani were sentenced to six years in jail, their families told BBC Persian.

Two other members of the group are also in detention, with their status or sentences unknown.

One of the wildlife experts - who had dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship - died in a Tehran jail with the regime alleging he took his own life. This account has been disputed by human rights groups.

A number of other activists have died in mysterious circumstances in custody, with Tehran also alleging that they committed suicide.

The conservationists were arrested by Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards in January 2018, after taking pictures and tracking several endangered species in a "strategic area".

Three were charged with espionage, one with "co-operating with an enemy state", and four with "sowing corruption on earth", a charge that carries the death penalty in Iran, according to the BBC.

Amnesty International said the confessions from the wildlife experts were extracted by torture.
The UN also slammed the decison to detain the conservationists at the time.

"[It is] hard to fathom how working to preserve the Iranian flora and fauna can possibly be linked to conducting espionage against Iranian interests," the UN said.

Iran has detained a number of activists, academics and dual nationals after hardline conservatives extended their power following in the wake of the US' withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran last year.

British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff was detained by Iran in 2016, when she attempted to leave the country after a brief family visit with her daughter.

Meanwhile, a British-Iranian anthropologist also being held in Iran was released on bail on Wednesday.

"Kameel Ahmady was released on Sunday evening on a 500 million (toman, $42,000) bail after three months of temporary detention," IRNA quoted Shafagh Rahmani as saying.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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