DiCaprio Protests Iranian Environmentalists’ Arrest; Their Fate Still Uncertain

The plight of eight environmentalists jailed for the last year in Iran has sparked a worldwide uproar. The latest voice to join the chorus of international protests is that of the Hollywood actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio, who has called on the international community to mobilize. 

In a tweet posted on February 6, DiCaprio said: “Environmentalists and conservationists around the world continue to be unjustly persecuted. We must stand by those risking their lives to protect the future of our planet and its inhabitants. Add your name to this petition to voice your concern for the eight Iranian conservationists being detained by the government: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/626/639/055/conservationists-face-death-penalty-in-iran/ …”

In January 2018, agents from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Intelligence Organization arrested Niloufar Bayani, Kavus Seyyed Emami, Hooman Jokar, Morad Tahbaz, Taher Ghadirian, Amirhossein Khaleghi, and Sam Rajabi, all members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), a non-profit organization. The authorities arrested another environmentalist, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, a month later.

The Tehran prosecutor’s office initially accused the eight environmentalists of espionage, but later amended the charges to include “spreading corruption on earth.” Mr. Emami, died under suspicious circumstances in Tehran’s Evin prison a day after his arrest. Prison officials listed his death as a suicide.

Meanwhile in Iran, Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh, a member of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) Hope faction (established by the reformist supporters of President Hassan Rouhani after the 2016 election), said the Judiciary, the Ministry of Intelligence and the Supreme National Security Council must agree on how to proceed with the case of the eight environmentalists. 

“This and other similar cases could be detrimental to the welfare of the country. Therefore, we must resolve the issue in a calm and serene atmosphere,” Hosseinzadeh warned. “As people’s representatives, we and other state organs must agree on a solution.”

According to Hosseinzadeh, Majlis deputies have held many meetings with the families of the eight environmentalists and officials from the Ministry of Intelligence, the Judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

“We have been discussing the matter with Judiciary spokesman Mr. [Gholamhossein Mohseni] Ejei, the head of the Judiciary [Sadegh Larijani] and Majlis Speaker [Ali Larijani]. We must safeguard the legal rights of everyone,” Hosseinzadeh noted. “The case is ongoing, and we have not given up. We hope our efforts yield positive results, meaning that the case will proceed via the appropriate legal channels. We must also protect the constitutional rights of defendants.”

Earlier discussions between some Majlis deputies, President Rouhani and Mr. Larijani produced no tangible results. The deputies have promised to arrange a meeting between the families of the imprisoned environmentalists and the Majlis Speaker, Ali Larijani.

On February 6, Katayoon Rajabi, sister of the jailed environmentalist Sam Rajabi, tweeted: “380 days of temporary detention. Worst time in our lives. We have been trying and waiting patiently. Our many letters have gone unanswered, but we have stood strong with the help of friends and strangers. We hope for justice.”

Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi