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Iran sentences eight environmental activists on charges of spying for US

Supreme Court of Iran (Orijentolog/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s judiciary says it has issued prison sentences for eight environmental activists, including an Iranian who also has British and U.S. citizenship, on charges of spying for the United States and acting against Iran’s national security.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili says an Iranian appeals court issued “final verdicts” in their cases on February 18.

Two of the activists, Morad Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani, received 10-year prison sentences.

They also were ordered to return money that Iranian authorities claim they’d received from the U.S. government for their services.

Tahbaz is an Iranian who also holds U.S. and British citizenship.

Iran does not recognize dual or multiple nationalities. That means Iranians detained by authorities in Tehran cannot receive consular assistance from the other countries where they also are citizens.

In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, said two other activists, Houman Jokar and Taher Ghadirian, each received eight-year sentences for allegedly “collaborating with the hostile government of America.”

Another three activists — Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashan Doust, and Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi — were each sentenced to six years in prison.

The eighth activist, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, was sentenced to four years in an Iranian prison.

All the activists were arrested in Iran in early 2018.

A ninth activist who was arrested at the time, Iranian-Canadian national Kavous Seyed Emami, died while in custody in February 2018 under disputed circumstances.

His widow was blocked from flying out of Iran but later managed to leave the country.

Iran continues to imprison others with ties to the West, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years on allegations of planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling in Iran with her young daughter.

Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer Namazi are serving 10-year prison sentences on espionage charges.

Baquer Namazi is a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan Province under the U.S.-backed shah, Mohammad Reza Rahlavi.

Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail in 2017 after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence on charges of “collaboration with a hostile government.”

Shahini has since returned to the United States and is now suing Iran in U.S. federal court.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007, remains missing.

Earlier in February, Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty for Iranian citizen Amir Rahimpour, who was convicted of spying for the CIA.

Iranian state media have alleged that he had shared details about Iran’s nuclear program with the CIA.