Iran’s judiciary is “fully responsible” for the death of an Iranian-Canadian citizen who died while in police custody, the New York based NGO Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has said in a statement.
University professor and environmental activist Kavous Seyed-Emami was arrested January 24 along with several other activists. Seventeen days later, Emami’s son, Ramin, tweeted the news of his father’s death and that the family had been told it was a suicide.
“The news of my father’s passing is impossible to fathom,” Ramin Seyed-Emami, an Iranian musician also known as King Raam, tweeted February 10. “I still can’t believe this.”
Emami, who was 63 years old, is the third person to have allegedly committed suicide while in police custody in the Islamic Republic in the last two months
The CHRI has called for an immediate UN-led investigation into the three deaths, two of which occurred in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, and one which happened at a police station in the city of Arak.
The news of Emami’s death coincided with an announcement by Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi about the detention of “a number” of environmental activists on charges of “espionage in the area of environment.”
“Those arrested were collecting classified strategic information under the cover of scientific environmental projects,” Dolatabadi said.
Dolatabadi confirmed Emami’s death February 11, alleging “He killed himself after his own and others’ confessions.”
CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi described the rising number of suspicious deaths in Iran’s prisons as an “unfolding tragedy.”
“This stems from the widespread impunity of judicial and security officials who are getting away with murder, time after time,” he said. “The interrogators and the judicial authorities are directly responsible for prisoners’ lives. In addition to independent investigations and an autopsy to determine the cause of death, the perpetrators must be held accountable in a transparent process.”
CHRI’s statement also demanded Iranian authorities stop harassing Emami’s family, which they say is been pressured by authorities to hold a burial immediately without an independent autopsy and medical investigation of the cause of death.
The NGO also noted in its statement that Emami is the second dual Iranian-Canadian citizen to die behind bars in Iran.
“In July 2003, photographer Zahra (aka Ziba) Kazemi also died under suspicious circumstances while being interrogated in Evin Prison. Her case remains unsolved despite calls for justice by lawyers and Canadian officials.”
According to CHRI there are currently at least eleven Iranians with dual citizenship or permanent residence permits in foreign countries held in prisons in Iran.
23-year old Sina Ghanbari and 22-year Vahid Haydari are the other two men who allegedly committed suicide while in police custody in the last two months. Both were arrested during widespread anti-establishment protests that swept across the country in late December and early January.
Judiciary officials have claimed they have CCTV footage documenting Ghanbari and Heydari’s suicides, but they have not made the footage public.
Alireza Rahimi , an MP who visited Evin Prison in Tehran, wrote on his Telegram channel, “There is no footage of Ghanbari’s suicide. What they showed us at Evin, was some images of Evin’s restrooms. We did not see any footage of anyone committing suicide.”