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Iranian-Canadian environmentalist's death in prison raises questions

12 February 2018

The 63-year-old's death was confirmed late yesterday when his son Ramin Seyed Emami, who is a popular singer in Iran, revealed details to his followers on social media.

An Iranian environmentalist has died in prison, his son said on Twitter, less than month since he was arrested.

"The news of my father's passing is impossible to fathom", Raam wrote.

Mr Emami's friend and former sociology colleague at the University of Lethbridge said his death was a "profound tragedy".

"Consular officials in Ankara are working to gather additional information and are providing assistance to the family", Natasha Nystrom wrote.

In addition to his role at the university, Seyed-Emami was the managing director of the environmental group the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

The Tehran Prosecutor General, Abba Jafari Dolotabadi, has said members of the group were arrested for gathering classified intelligence in strategic areas under the guise of scientific and environmental work.

On Instagram, Raam said Iranian authorities said Emami had committed suicide in jail. Seyed-Emami had said he felt it was his duty to teach his opposing views.

"The information published about him is not believable and we expect officials to respond and to provide the public with information concerning his death", the Association said in a statement Sunday.

An academic who knew Mr Seyed-Emami told AFP news agency the Iranian academic community was "in shock". "He was my friend and will be missed".

Seyed-Emami is the second Iranian-Canadian to die in prison in Iran following the murder of 54-year-old photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003.

Tajzadeh was himself held at Evin prison in Tehran for seven years.

One of Iran's most eminent professors, Kavous Seyed-Emami, has died in custody after his arrest in a crackdown on dissent.

Meanwhile Ali Shakourirad, head of the reformist Islamic Union Party, tweeted that the death had "caused a wave of questions and concerns among the public".

"The incomplete and vague information of the Tehran prosecutor added more questions".

Human rights groups outside the country have accused Iranian authorities of systematic abuses in prisons. A spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, which manages Canadian foreign and trade relations, said on Saturday the government was aware of reports of the death of a Canadian citizen in Iran.

Mr Seyed-Emami ran the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and was a sociology professor.

Separately, Iran's judiciary has announced in recent weeks the suicides of two Iranians among those arrested during nationwide anti-government protests last month.

Iranian-Canadian environmentalist's death in prison raises questions