FOUR conservationists who set up cameras to check on the movements of endangered big cats in Iran face EXECUTION for spying.
The wildlife experts were monitoring the dwindling numbers of the Asiatic cheetah, which stalk the Islamic republic’s dwindling plateau.
The Asiatic cheetahs – also known as Iranian or Persian cheetah – now number fewer than 50[/caption]
Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami is claimed to have committed suicide in custody[/caption]
However, despite reportedly getting the all-clear from the government in Tehran they were then arrested by the country’s Revolutionary Guard on charges of espionage.
Now four members of the nine-strong team have worryingly been charged with “spreading corruption on earth.”
If found guilty, they face death by hanging while four others may be sentenced to up to 10 years in hellhole prisons.
One member of the team – from the non-profit Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF)- has already died in custody, reports the Washington Post.
Tehran’s prosecutor general said Kavous Seyed-Emami, a professor who held Canadian citizenship committed suicide, but his family have rejected those claims.
“He was hopeful and optimistic about the country’s future,” said his Iranian son Mehran. “He was never one to have hard-line or polarised views.”
The rest are now awaiting a verdict in a trial that rights groups say has already been dogged by accusations of torture.
Human Rights Watch reports at least two members of the group – Niloufar Bayani and Sepideh Kashani – plan to go on hunger strike to protest their detention.
The Revolutionary Guard Corps has increasingly targeted academics and researchers for unwarranted arrest.
The PWHF began using wildlife camera traps to track the intensely shy cheetah amid concerns about an eroding natural habitat threatened by Iran’s expanding mining sector and road network.
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The cheetahs – also known as Iranian or Persian cheetah – now number fewer than 50, scientists say.
The cameras are triggered by a mammal’s movement and body heat and snap images of animals within a few yards of a target spot, like a game trail or watering hole.
But the conservationists were accused of using scientific and environmental projects – including the overseas manufactured camera traps – to collect classified military information.
The endangered big cats only stalk the Islamic republic’s dwindling plateau (stock)[/caption]
The Asiatic cheetah has long limbs and slender frame suited for running at speed[/caption]