Fifteen Iranian activists in Azerbaijan province have been sentenced to four months in prison plus a 20-month suspended jail term.
The Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners reports that the activists were arrested at a dinner gathering in Tabriz on August 24, during the month of Ramadan, and charged with “assembly with the intention to commit a crime against national security.”
The report adds that the evidence against the detainees is their participation in the Eftar dinner and their discussions about the protests organized around the drying of Lake Oroumiyeh.
The association reports that the activists were tried behind closed doors, adding that “some of the detainees were subjected to torture [during the investigation] and basically were denied the right to see their family or their defence attorney.”
The report indicates that the sentence has already been approved by Azerbaijan’s appellate court.
Iranian authorities arrested scores of Azerbaijani activists this summer during protests slamming government inaction in the face of the rapidly falling water level in Lake Oroumiyeh. The protests intensified after Parliament voted down a plan to redirect water from the Aras River to the lake.
Environmental experts have blamed the drying on falling precipitation levels and the proliferation of dams on the waters that feed the lake.
In September, the government formed a parliamentary commission that will work with the ministry of energy to find the most effective plan to save the lake. It also promised a large budget to fund the solution.