Kaveh Madani, the Deputy Head of Iran’s Department of the Environment for Education and Research, remains under surveillance, IranWire has learned. 

According to a source based in Iran, who spoke to IranWire on condition of anonymity, the Revolutionary Guards continue to monitor Madani, who was arrested on Sunday, February 11 and released a day later.  

After being arrested, Madani was taken to an unknown location. According to IranWire’s source, on Monday, February 12, Madani, accompanied by a number of security agents, returned to his office and, in the presence of the agents, he recorded a video and posted it on Instagram. The same day, security agents confiscated documents from his office.

The source told IranWire that the Revolutionary Guards’ agents also “respectfully” questioned some of Madani’s colleagues about his activities. After returning to his office, says the source, signs of fear could clearly be seen on Madani’s face.

IranWire’s efforts to contact Madani or his family have so far been unsuccessful.

On Monday, the website of Iran’s Department of Environment published a report about a meeting between Isa Kalantari, the head of the department [Persian link], and Michael Klor-Berchtold, the German ambassador to Tehran. Kaveh Madani can be seen In the photograph that accompanies the report, which quotes him talking about a memorandum of cooperation on the environment between Iran and Germany that was due to be signed on Tuesday, February 13. The German ambassador confirmed the meeting on Twitter. “Good discussion today with Vice President Isa Kalantari, Head of the Iranian Department of Environment, and Deputy Head,” he tweeted.

Despite these reports, and the fact that the public relations office of the Department of Environment has denied that Madani has been arrested [Persian link], there are indications that the interrogation of Madani is ongoing.

“It is reported that Kaveh Madani, who had said in a video message that he was free, yesterday [February 12] went to his office, accompanied by agents, and after about two hours he left in the company of the agents," tweeted BBC Persian reporter Mehdi Parpanchi. "His Instagram message was posted in the presence of the agents.” [Persian link]

“On Saturday and Sunday Kaveh Madani was interrogated for hours,” an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran [Persian link].

Access to Social Media Blocked

Madani’s social media accounts were suspended on Sunday after the news broke of his arrest. In the Instagram video, Madani said he cannot access social media, including his Twitter account.

Over the last 20 days, a number of environmental activists have been under arrest, including associates of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF), an NGO known for its efforts to save the Iranian cheetah from extinction. One of them, Kavous Seyed-Emami, died in prison under suspicious conditions. The families of other detainees have been given no information about their loved ones. 

“There were many confessions against this individual and he confessed against himself as well, and unfortunately he committed suicide,” Tehran’s prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced on Saturday, February 10. The prosecutor offered no details about the confessions, but confirmed that a number of individuals had been arrested. Two days later, on February 12, he told the Dana website that the arrested had used the cover of working on scientific and environmental projects to gain access to important and "strategic" locations and gather intelligence [Persian link]. All of the detained had links to foreign intelligence services — and Israel's Mossad in particular. He confirmed they had been arrested at the end of January. He also stated that more information about the cases would be released in the coming days.

A Three-Fold Espionage Mission

On Tuesday, February 13, Dowlatabadi did provide more details. According to Mehr News Agency, the prosecutor said that those arrested were tasked with a three-fold mission to conduct environmental projects, infiltrate Iran’s scientific community, and collect information on sensitive sites, including missile sites.

In the course of interrogations, Dowlatabadi claimed, the arrested spies had confessed that they had attended conferences on land occupied by the Israeli regime in order to meet with Mossad officers. “The members of this team had installed cameras in some sensitive sites of the country, under the pretext of pro-environment activities, to monitor Iranian missile activities. They then sent the videos and photos to foreign intelligence services,” he added.

Before the arrests of the Iranian members of this project, Dowlatabadi claimed, two CIA agents had repeatedly traveled to Iran with the intention of opening a pro-environment institute with branches across all major Iranian cities.

It is not clear what connections Kaveh Madani might have had with the “espionage operation” as described by Tehran’s prosecutor, but it is likely that in the days ahead, more sensational claims and charges can be expected. 

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