Iran says dead professor was part of CIA, Mossad spy network

Iran says dead professor was part of CIA, Mossad spy network

Tehran:Tehran's chief prosecutor on Tuesday accused a renowned Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in prison of being part of an espionage network set up by Mossad and the CIA.

Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, a renowned professor and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was buried on Tuesday in the village of Ammami around 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Tehran.

Officials say he committed suicide in his prison cell a fortnight after being arrested along with seven members of his NGO.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the NGO was set up "about a decade ago" as a cover to collect "classified information in defence and missile fields".

"Defendants in the case, under the guidance of the CIA and Mossad intelligence officers, have pursued a triple mission focused on the environment, infiltrating the scientific community and collecting information from the country's sensitive and vital centres including missile bases," he said, according to the judiciary-linked Mizanonline news agency.

He said Emami was one of the main contacts for US agents and an intelligence officer had stayed at his home.

"Members of this network installed cameras in strategic areas under cover of monitoring the environment, while in fact monitoring the country's missile activities," Dolatabadi said.

One of the NGO's key projects was monitoring the endangered Asian cheetah, which meant they operated across large swathes of Semnan province, which is home to military sites and missile-testing grounds.

Dolatabadi said the main financial backer was an Iranian-British-American citizen with the initials "MT" -- probably a reference to Morad Tahbaz, a wealthy businessman and board member of the wildlife NGO who was among those arrested last month.

Iran does not recognise dual nationals and treats them purely as Iranians, denying them certain consular services.

In November, the conservative-linked Tasnim news agency accused Tahbaz of being a big-game hunter who was trying to seize control of national park land in northern Iran.

Tahbaz comes from a wealthy family who made their fortune before the 1979 revolution and once owned the renowned Kayhan newspaper, which is now controlled by the Islamic authorities.AFP