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Iranian-Canadian’s Family ‘Threatened’ Into Silence

Family and friends at the funeral of Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami.

The son of an Iranian-Canadian academic and environmentalist who recently died under suspicious circumstances at Evin Prison in Tehran says Iranian intelligence agents interrogated and threatened his mother to force her into silence.

On February 9, Kavous Seyed-Emami’s son Ramin wrote on his blog, “They summoned my mother purportedly to ‘meet with her husband.’ Instead, they interrogated and threatened her for three hours before announcing the death of her husband.”

Ramin says they forced his mother to commit in writing not to speak to the media. “They threatened her by saying she would be imprisoned, too,” he added.

He also says threats against his family are not unprecedented. “Similar threats of harming my dad had previously been issued from authorities and forced us to keep silent while he was in custody,” he wrote.

Emami, an environmental activist and sociology professor, was arrested on January 24 and died under suspicious circumstances on February 9 at the notorious Tehran prison. Iran's judiciary said on February 11 that Emami had confessed and then committed suicide. The judiciary did not say what did Emami confess to.

In an official statement dated February 14, Ramin reiterated, “We have the right to know why my father was arrested and under what circumstances he died. Such a right is guaranteed by the country’s laws. We will use every legal channel at our disposal toward holding an independent investigation.”

Iranian-Canadian sociologist and environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emamy. Undated
Iranian-Canadian sociologist and environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emamy. Undated

Ramin says he was allowed to view his father’s body on February 12, but his family’s lawyers were not permitted to join him and the autopsy report was not made available.

Ramin and the lawyers took the issue to court, where Ramin alone was shown a video purportedly of the suicide. “I was the only member of the family to see the video,” he said. “I want to stress this point because rumors have spread that my uncle has also seen it. None of my uncles has spoken to the media, and any statement to this effect is null and void.”

Earlier, IRGC-run news agency Tasnim had cited one of Ramin’s uncles, Kamran Seyed-Emami, as saying, “Along with my late brother’s wife, we saw his dead body and on the insistence of the prosecutor-general thoroughly inspected it but saw nothing suspicious. We saw only the traces of being hanged, which is also clearly documented in the prison’s CCTV video. It was obvious that my brother had hanged himself.”

However, Ramin maintains that the footage is inconclusive. “The actual death is not recorded,” he said. “All I could see was my dad in a nervous and restless condition going into a bathroom where we were told he then hanged himself.”

Ramin concluded by insisting, “Our family’s wish first and foremost is to know why my father was arrested, the details of his interrogation, and to see any files associated with this case.”

He also tweeted that his father’s memorial service, which had been scheduled to be held on February 15 at a Tehran mosque, was cancelled after a telephone call. He did not say who made the call but what he probably meant is that security agencies interfered.

Emami’s body was buried on February 13 at Amameh Cemetery, 40 kilometers (roughly 25 miles) north of Tehran.