Iran’s ex-intelligence minister slams handling of prison death

Kavous Seyed Emami
Updated 25 February 2018
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Iran’s ex-intelligence minister slams handling of prison death

TEHRAN: An ex-intelligence minister in Iran on Sunday criticized the handling of an environmentalist’s death in prison, saying the public would not believe he was a spy unless the case was handled by a “competent agency.”
Ali Younessi, who was intelligence minister under President Mohammad Khatami between 2000 and 2005, shone a rare light on the turf war between Iran’s multiple security agencies in his interview with the daily Iran newspaper.
He referred to the case of Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, the Iranian-Canadian citizen who founded the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation. He died in prison this month after being arrested along with seven members of his NGO on espionage charges.
“Unfortunately the Intelligence Ministry has no jurisdiction over this case,” said Younessi, who now serves as an adviser to President Hassan Rouhani on minority religious affairs.
“I believe the case should be given to the Intelligence Ministry ... Given the events that have occurred, if a competent and legal agency does not intervene and doesn’t give its opinion on the dead individual or those under arrest, public opinion will not believe they are spies even if they are convicted.”
The authorities say Emami committed suicide, but the family have questioned the verdict and say they were threatened by security forces.
Younessi did not name the agency running the case, but the Revolutionary Guards run a powerful intelligence service that is separate from the Intelligence Ministry.
Younessi also gave details of the infamous case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died from head injuries after being arrested for taking photos outside Evin prison in 2003.
“The prosecutor at the time insisted she was a spy,” he said, referring to the notorious Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who was last year jailed for his part in another custodial death during protests in 2009.
“We sent two counter-espionage experts from the ministry to investigate this woman in a hotel. After the interview, the two experts concluded that from a technical and scientific standpoint, Zahra Kazemi was not a spy,” said Younessi.
But Mortazavi refused to listen to their verdict, he said, and handed the case back to the police.
In Younessi’s version of events, Kazemi, who was 54, died from a brain haemorrhage caused at the moment of her arrest.
She “was beaten because she refused to hand over her items and her head hit a concrete road divider, which caused a haemorrhage,” he said.
That goes against statement from the government at the time, which said Kazemi was violently beaten in prison. The judiciary initially claimed she died of a stroke and only later that she was injured in a fall.


Turkey sends reinforcements to Syria’s Idlib

Updated 36 min 1 sec ago
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Turkey sends reinforcements to Syria’s Idlib

  • Around 35 military vehicles traveled south down the main highway near the town of Saraqib after midnight
  • The convoy was accompanied by pro-Ankara rebels of the National Liberation Front

SARAQIB, Syria: Turkish troop reinforcements entered Syria’s rebel bastion of Idlib on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported, a week after a deal between Ankara and Moscow averted a government offensive.
Around 35 military vehicles traveled south down the main highway near the town of Saraqib after midnight.
The convoy was accompanied by pro-Ankara rebels of the National Liberation Front (NLF), who control part of the enclave on the Turkish border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the forces deployed to several Turkish positions around the northwestern province.
Since last year, Turkish troops have manned 12 monitoring positions in the rebel zone under a de-escalation agreement between Turkey, Russia and fellow regime ally Iran.
Last week, Ankara and Moscow announced a new agreement for a demilitarized zone along the horse-shoe shaped front line between the rebels and government troops.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls more than half of the rebel zone, while NLF fighters hold sway over most of the rest.
The agreement gives Turkey the responsibility to ensure that all fighters in the planned demilitarized zone hand over their heavy weapons by October 10 and that the more radical among them withdraw by October 15.
The agreement also provides for Turkish and Russian troops patrol the buffer zone.
Last week, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would have to send reinforcements to provide the numbers needed to conduct the patrols.
The Syrian civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.