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Investigation Into Environmentalist’s Prison Death ‘Incomplete’

Iranian Sociologist Kavous Seyed-Emami who has reportedly died in jail just two weeks after his arrest on January 24, 2018.

The investigation into the death of Dr. Kavous Seyed-Emami, the Iranian environmentalist who died in prison on February 8, is not complete until the family is given an official post-mortem document to verify the cause of death, a lawyer for the man’s family told Radio Farda’s Farin Assemy.

“Tehran’s Forensic Medicine Department and the Iranian coroner’s office have carried out an autopsy on Emami’s body, but a death certificate takes a month to be issued,” Payam Derafshan, a lawyer representing Emami’s family told Radio Farda.

According to prison authorities, 63-year-old Emami committed suicide while incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. His family do not accept this explanation, however, and say a video recording purportedly showing their relative’s suicide contains nothing indicating Emami took his own life.

MP and National Security Committee Chairman Allaedin Boroujerdi had earlier claimed that the family watched the video, accepted the official explanation for his death, and are not requesting an official death certificate.

The family has since rejected the claim, saying that the video clip they saw shows no suicide.

International human rights watchdogs including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for an independent investigation into the matter.

“We need to know whether or not he was given any medication, or perhaps medication he needed was withheld,” said Derafshan, adding that prison officials are legally accountable for deaths that occur in their facilities, including a suicide if the inmate was under undue pressure.

Amnesty International expressed concern that there is a "callous cover-up" attempt in Emami's case, when authorities refuse to release his body.

“The authorities’ refusal to allow an independent investigation into the extremely suspicious death of Dr Seyed-Emami smacks of a deliberately orchestrated attempt to cover up any evidence of torture and possible murder. He was detained in Evin prison where detainees are held under constant surveillance and stripped of all personal possessions. It would have been near impossible for him to commit suicide", said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty international’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and Africa.

Derafshan in his interview with Radio Farda also disclosed that even the prosecutor’s office did not have any information about the “espionage” charges against Emami that lead to his incarceration.

Emami, a sociologist and environmental activist, was arrested January 24 along with several other activists. Prison officials told his family February 8 that he had committed suicide. His family has announced that his burial will take place February 13.

The Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has said in a statement that the Iranian judiciary “is fully responsible” for Emami’s death.

According to the CHRI, Emami 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.

Meanwhile, former Tehran Mayor Morteza Alviri, who was himself previously an inmate in Evin Prison, tweeted on Tuesday that “Even if a prisoner is led to a situation to commit suicide, still the government should be held accountable for the loss of life.”

A number of Iranian MPs have also expressed concern over Emami’s death in custody.