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UNEP renews call for release of environmental conservationists imprisoned in Iran

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has renewed its appeal for the release of Niloufar Bayani and eight other environmental conversationists imprisoned in Iran.

Niloufar Bayani

Bayani alongside the eight were arrested in February 2018 for espionage and subsequently sentenced to lengthy jail terms in Iran.

She worked between 2012 and 2017 as a consultant based out of UNEP’s Geneva office.

In a statement by the UNEP on Monday, the UN agency said it had been five years since her imprisonment and it was seeking a clemency for her safe return home.

“It has now been five years since her imprisonment. Taking note of the pardons recently issued by the Iranian authorities, the United Nations Environment Programme renews its call for clemency and for the safe return home of Ms Bayani, and indeed all the environmental conservationists imprisoned in Iran.

“A deeply committed and hardworking colleague, Ms Bayani focused on enhancing the resilience of communities against disasters and climate change.

“This mission took Ms Bayani to countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Ivory Coast and Sri Lanka,” it said.

The statement added: “She was also lead author of several UNEP publications that examined how the regulatory functions of ecosystems could provide a buffer against disasters.

“A conservation biologist by training, however, it was in conserving Iran’s natural heritage and unique species where Ms Bayani’s heart lay, and in 2017 she returned to her home country to work on efforts to conserve the Persian or Asian Cheetah, one of the most endangered large cat species in the world.

“Ms Bayani was arrested in February 2018 along with other internationally, recognised experts in the field of nature conservation.

“Our natural world is under tremendous pressure,” said the UNEP.

It said the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste were threaten to erode decades of progress on poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Environmental conservationists, it said, were critical allies in protecting the rights of current and future generations to a clean, health and sustainable environment; hence a better future is difficult to build, without them.

“We at UNEP continue to plea for the release of Ms Bayani and other conservationists on humanitarian grounds,” said the UN agency.

By Usman Aliyu

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