Detained Iranian-Canadian Activist Reportedly Dies In Tehran Prison

Kavous Sayed Emami speaks at the University of Lethbridge in October 2017

Kavous Sayed Emami speaks at the University of Lethbridge in October 2017

"He was one of the defendants in a spying case and unfortunately he committed suicide in prison since he knew that many had made confessions against him and because of his own confessions", Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi told the ILNA news agency.

Ghaemi said Seyed-Emami was a founder of the group, which he called "the leading environmental NGO in Iran", and he was detained along with almost a dozen other members. "I still can't believe this", Raam Emami wrote from an unknown location.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said at least nine other staff members and executives of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation were arrested the same day as Seyed-Emami, citing information from a relative of one of those arrested.

The Iran Sociology Association also questioned the official account of his death.

Seyed-Emami presented a lecture to Lethbridge students in October, on ethnic identities and nationhood in Iran.

Prison authorities insist that three prisoners who died after they were arrested during nationwide street protests in December also committed suicide, although many Iranians have challenged those conclusions.


Iranian authorities had never announced Seyed-Emami's arrest, and his death was not confirmed by official sources.

"These people collected classified information in strategic sectors of the country in the name of scientific and environmental projects", he was quoted as saying by the Mizan Online news agency, which is linked to the judiciary.

"Some of them refused to comment, some others said we pursued (but) failed to get information", the lawmaker wrote. The demonstrations initially focused on Iran's poor economy despite its nuclear deal with world powers, but quickly spiraled into chants directly challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and its theocratic government. Almost 5,000 people are thought to have been arrested overall.

The death is among a number recently reported that involve detained activists. A United Nations panel in September described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denies.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality and treats those arrested as Iranian citizens. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, recently received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences respectively. Shahini is believed to still be in Iran. He was sentenced to 10 years last year on espionage-related charges.

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