US-British conservationist faces being HANGED after being accused of spying on Iran’s missile programme with camera traps used to monitor leopards
- Morad Tahbaz, who holds UK passport, was arrested with seven others last year
- They claimed they were working on a project to monitor endangered animals
- But they have been accused of using camera traps to spy on missile programme
- Four have charges upgraded to ‘corruption on earth’, punishable by hanging
A British-American conservationist is facing execution in Iran over spying charges, it has emerged.
Morad Tahbaz, who holds a UK passport, was arrested along with seven others last year amid claims they were spying on the country’s missile programme for the CIA.
They had been working on a project to monitor endangered cheetahs and leopards. But officials in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard claimed camera traps they were using were for espionage.
Charges for four of the group – including Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani, a 31-year-old former United Nations employee educated in Canada – have been upgraded to ‘sowing corruption on earth’, punishable by hanging in Iran.
British-American conservationist, Morad Tahbaz (pictured), is facing execution in Iran over spying charges, it has emerged
Mr Tahbaz has previously been described as a wealthy businessman and board member of the wildlife NGO Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, which was running the conservation project.
Iran does not recognise dual nationals and treats them purely as Iranians, denying them certain consular services.
Tahbaz comes from a wealthy family who made their fortune before the 1979 revolution and once owned the renowned Kayhan newspaper, which is now controlled by the Islamic authorities, AFP reported last year.
In February 2018, a ninth environmentalist, Iranian-Canadian Kavous Seyed Emami – a 63-year-old professor and renowned environmentalist allegedly committed suicide in prison, a fortnight after his arrest. His family has disputed the suicide claim.
Charges for four of the group – including Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani (pictured), a 31-year-old former United Nations employee educated in Canada – have been upgraded to ‘sowing corruption on earth’, punishable by hanging in Iran
In February 2018, a ninth environmentalist, Iranian-Canadian Kavous Seyed Emami (pictured) – a 63-year-old professor and renowned environmentalist allegedly committed suicide in prison, a fortnight after his arrest. His family has disputed the suicide claim
Recently, a row is said to have broken out between Iran’s intelligence ministry – which says the group are innocent – and the Revolutionary Guard, which accuses them of espionage.
According to the Times, conservationists have slammed the spying claims as ‘absurd’, pointing out that the camera traps have a range of just 45ft.
Ms Bayani is said to have told a judge she had been tortured into a confession, activists from Human Rights Watch said.
‘If you were being threatened with a needle of hallucinogenic drugs above your arm, you would also confess to whatever they wanted you to confess,’ she said, according to the group.
It said the the trial of the eight suspects started on January 30. Along with Bayani and Tahbaz, they were named as Houman Jokar, Sepideh Kashani, Amirhossein Khaleghi, Sam Rajabi, Taher Ghadirian and Abdoreza Kouhpayeh.
‘The gravity of due process violations against these activists over the past year, and the recent allegation of torture and forced confessions, has reinforced the reality that the judiciary is a tool of repression and a symbol of injustice,’ said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
‘The highest-ranking authorities should immediately investigate this allegation of torture, immediately call for the release of these activists, and end the grave abuses against them.’