Leading academics and rights activists demanded action from Iran's government today following the alleged "suicide" of a revered 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 yesterday 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, who has been jailed several times, to express regret over his failure to speak up about prison abuses in the past.
"When I heard this news I felt guilty because, in order 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 his Telegram channel.
"If we had all spoken out, it would be known why such catastrophes happen in prisons," he added.
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 advisors, 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.
"Just as it is necessary to supervise the executive branch, it is necessary to supervise their dealings with defendants.
"One Mortazavi was enough for the country, let's not have another one," he added, referring to notorious former Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who was convicted over the death of a protester in custody during mass demonstrations in 2009.
Asked about Emami's case today, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejeie told the reformist ILNA news agency: "I have heard he committed suicide but I have so far no information on the details. This recent incident is under investigation."
Separately, the Environment Protection Organisation (EPO) denied rumours that its deputy head Kaveh Madani had been arrested.
A senior official at the EPO, who did not wish to be named, told AFP today that this was incorrect and that Madani was at work.
A tweet was published on Madani's personal Twitter account early today for the first time in three days.
"Hopeful for narrow-mindedness to get wiped out. Hopeful for peace of mind for environmental activists. Hopeful for the removal of concern of those awaiting the return of loved ones," it read.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)