Professor’s jail ‘suicide’ raises outcry

Leading academics and rights activists demanded action from Iran’s government yesterday following the “suicide” of an environmentalist in prison.

The family of Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, a renowned professor at Imam Sadegh University and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was told on Friday that he had killed himself in prison two weeks after his arrest.

A judiciary official claimed on Sunday that he had confessed to crimes related to an espionage investigation, which has seen seven other members of his wildlife NGO placed in detention.

The incident prompted Iranian rights activist Emadeddin Baghi – previously jailed several times – to express regret at his failure to speak up about prison abuses.

“When I heard this news I felt guilty because, to prevent it being exploited by Iran’s enemies . . . I refused to reveal the bad treatment I had experienced during my detention,” Baghi wrote on the internet service Telegram.

“If we had all spoken out, it would be known why such catastrophes happen in prisons,” he wrote.

A group of four academic societies, representing some of Iran’s top universities, wrote an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, demanding “immediate and effective action to seriously investigate the case . . . and make the institutions involved in this painful loss accountable”.

“In addition to being a well-known professor, a distinguished scientist and war veteran, he was a noble and ethical human being,” they wrote in the letter.

“The news and rumours related to his arrest and death are not believable.”

One of Rouhani’s closest advisers, Hesameddin Ashena, tweeted later that the judiciary, which is dominated by conservatives and has clashed with his moderate government in the past, should be more closely supervised.

“Judges, prosecutors, officers, interrogators are neither infallible, nor faultless, or free from prejudice,” Ashena wrote. – AFP

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