This is an opinion piece essentially because I’m going to say right away that this story indicates once again how the Iranian government have a habit of jailing innocent people in order to provide them with leverage against those governments they consider to be their enemies. They have done this numerous times and this is just another sad example in my opinion.
The Asiatic cheetah is endangered. It is a wild cat species which rarely discussed and talked about on the Internet. The IUCN Red List has very little information on this cat species. They live in Iran which is a bit sad because Iran is not known for their animal welfare policies particularly in relation to wild cat species.
In this instance six academics and campaigners had set up camera traps in order to monitor the movement of Asiatic cheetahs and other endangered species. Sadly, the Iranian intelligence service accused them of monitoring missile sites.
One of the accused is Morad Tahbaz, a businessman with joint US, British and Iranians nationality who has been jailed for 10 years. Another is a Canadian educated former employee of the UN Environment Programme in Geneva, Niloufar Bayani, 32, who has also been jailed for 10 years. She said that her confession was tortured from her. There are four others who have also been jailed, two of whom were sentenced to 8 years and the other two were given six years.
They had already been in custody for 22 months before the verdict of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. Another member of the group, a Tehran University professor and managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Kavous Seyed-Emami, was found dead in his cell last year. They say that he hanged himself which is a finding that his family disputes.
They were accused of spying for America and taking instructions from an American businessman, David Laylin who said that the convicted people are totally innocent and have been caught up in domestic and foreign power plays.
Apparently, indicating a division within the Iranians regime’s chosen circles, there’s been a claim by Iranians that the group is innocent and it was aired in the Iranian Media. Members of Parliament have called for their release. They can appeal.