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

© FAMILY HANDOUT/AFP/File | Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami died in prison

TEHRAN (AFP) - 

An ex-intelligence minister in Iran on Sunday criticised the handling of an environmentalist's death in prison, saying the public would not believe he was a spy unless the case was properly handled.

Ali Younessi, who was intelligence minister under reformist 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 was referring to 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 advisor 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.

Iran has a wide array of security agencies, which often act independently of each other and are responsible to competing centres of power.

Younessi did not name the agency running the case, but the Revolutionary Guards run a powerful intelligence service that is separate from the government's intelligence ministry.

© 2018 AFP