A death in an Iranian prison is one more shocking sign of repression

AS POPULAR pressure on Iran’s repressive regime has mounted in recent months, so has its brutal treatment of people accused of being agents of foreign powers — especially those with Western passports.

On Feb. 11, Tehran’s prosecutor announced that a leading environmental activist, Kavous Seyed-Emami, who held Canadian as well as Iranian citizenship, had died in the notorious Evin prison, allegedly by suicide. The same day, American citizen Baquer Namazi was taken from the prison to a hospital, suffering from apparent cardiac problems, just five days after he was returned to his cell against the advice of doctors. As we write, he is still undergoing treatment. Mr. Namazi is 81 years old. The two men are victims of a security apparatus that has struggled to tamp down unrest in scores of Iranian cities but finds it easy to target innocent men and women who happen to have some connection to the United States, Britain or other democratic states. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the judiciary act not only out of paranoia but also from the cynical calculation that they can use dual citizens as pawns in international diplomacy.

Many of those seized are admirers of Iran who have sought to promote better understanding of it in the West. An American graduate student, Xiyue Wang, who was studying an ancient Iranian dynasty, was arrested in August 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Businessman Siamak Namazi, who advocated better U.S.-Iranian relations, was detained in October 2015. When his father, Baquer, repeatedly attempted to visit him, he too was arrested; both men were sentenced to 10 years in prison in October 2016.  Baquer Namazi has long suffered from heart problems. He has been hospitalized five times since his arrest. In January, his doctors and Iran’s own medical examiner recommended that he be given a three-month medical parole. Instead, he was cruelly returned to Evin prison just days after his release.

Mr. Seyed-Emami was one of nine environmentalists detained last month; according to the Wall Street Journal, one of the others, Morad Tahbaz, is a dual American-Iranian national. Both men were affiliated with the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, known for attempting to protect rare animals. The claim by Tehran’s prosecutor — that Mr. Seyed-Emani had killed himself after confessing to criminal behavior — was rejected by his family. Authorities refused to release his body unless the family agreed to an immediate burial without an autopsy, something Amnesty International said “smacks of a deliberately orchestrated attempt to cover up any evidence of torture and possible murder.”