Questions surround death of environmentalist in Iranian prison

Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed Emami, seen here at an unidentified location, in a photograph released on Sunday by his family.

Story highlights

  • Iranian authorities say Kavous Seyed Emami committed suicide, but his family disagrees
  • Seyed Emami was one of a group of environmentalists arrested last month and accused of espionage

(CNN)A prominent academic and environmentalist has died under disputed circumstances in prison in Tehran.

Iranian authorities said that 63-year old Kavous Seyed Emami committed suicide, a claim rejected by his family. Seyed Emami had dual Canadian-Iranian nationality, and was one of a group of environmentalists arrested last month and accused of espionage.
Seyed Emami's son Ramin said in social media posts that prison authorities had informed the family Friday that he had taken his own life.
    Ramin said his father's death "is impossible to fathom." He added: "I still can't believe this."
    The Canadian Foreign Ministry told CNN: "We are aware of these reports. Canadian consular officials in Ankara are working to gather additional information and are providing assistance to the family."
    Seyed Emami was one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an Iran-based environmentalist group.
    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.
    Dolotabadi added Sunday: "This person was one of the accused, and as he knew that many statements were made against him and he had confessed himself, he unfortunately committed suicide in prison."
    The family says that Seyed Emami will be buried in the village of Ammameh outside Tehran.
    His colleagues and friends expressed shock at his arrest and death.
    "Dr. Seyed-Emami was never a political activist. His lectures and thoughts were of course in clash with the official ideology and the way of thinking (the) regime would promote," said Ali Reza Eshraghi, a former student of Seyed Emami.