Ramin Mehran Seyed Emami amanpour
Son: They told her it was 'good news,' but he was dead
02:37 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Their father was jailed and died in an Iranian prison. They say their mother was barred from leaving the country. Now out of Iran, Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami tell CNN that they are fighting to get their mother out and learn what happened to their father in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Iranian-Canadian environmental activist Kavous Seyed-Emami was arrested on January 24th under espionage charges, according to Reuters, and died in prison two weeks later. According to Iran’s judiciary, 63-year old Seyed-Emami committed suicide.

Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami with their father Kavous, who died in a Tehran prison, and mother Maryam.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour airing Friday, the sons insisted that their father was innocent – and doubted he would have killed himself.

“For someone who loved life, who loved family, who just a few weeks prior to that was hiking in the mountains with his dogs… to all of a sudden decide to take his own life is absurd,” said Mehran.

Ramin was shown a surveillance video by authorities which led him to further question the circumstances around his father’s death. He described seeing him disappear into an adjacent bathroom, where prison staff found him eight hours later.

“That’s like the first suspicious part,” he told Amanpour. “If he was such a high-profile prisoner, why wasn’t he being monitored?

“If you talk to other people who have been prisoners in Evin… it’s impossible to do something suspicious in your room without them torpedoing into the room and stopping it.”

Fighting back tears, Ramin explained how his widowed mother, Maryam Mombeini, found out that her husband had died.

“They gave her a phone call on Friday February 9th and tell her that we have some good news for you. She’s finally hoping she’s going to see her husband and they take her and interrogate her and grill her for four hours with ludicrous questions and accusations and just threatening her and telling her we’ll put you in the same place that your husband is.

“And finally, they tell her… now you can go see your husband, you can go see his body.”

Reeling from their father’s sudden death and feeling unsafe in Iran, the brothers decided to fly back home to Vancouver. Their mother, also a Canadian citizen, decided to leave her homeland behind and start a new life in Vancouver with her sons.

“Our home was raided twice, the house was probably bugged, we were getting a lot of threats and messages from dangerous people. They would bump into me in the streets and tell me we’re watching you,” said Ramin.

But as they prepared to board the plane, their mother was held back. Mehran recalled the moment his mother was seized at the airport.

“At the last second, right before we were about to board the plane, all of a sudden someone came up and called my mother’s name and we immediately knew something was wrong.

“They told us you have one minute to decide whether to leave the country without your mum or for all of you to stay. And my mother told us, ‘Please, please, just leave. I’ll be ok. I just don’t want you guys to come back, I want you guys to go and be safe.”

Iranian-Canadian environmental activist Kavous Seyed-Emami

Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, met with the Seyed-Emami brothers Wednesday and in a tweet said, “Canada will continue to demand answers in the death of Kavous Seyed-Emami and for the Iranian authorities to allow for his widow, Maryam Mombeini, a Canadian citizen, to return home.”

But the brothers are calling for action from Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau to intervene personally.

“Our expectation is for the Canadian government, and specifically the Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau, to speak up, acknowledge this issue and to open a serious investigation as to what happened. To make this request formally and officially. And not only from Canada but to have international pressure on Iran,” said Mehran.

Kavous Seyed-Emami’s death comes amid an apparent crackdown on environmental activists in Iran and the detention of dozens of Iranians with dual-citizens. Seyed-Emami one of the founders of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an Iran-based environmentalist group, was arrested along with other environmental activists in January.

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

Rouhani’s special assistant on civil rights Shahindokht Molaverdi said Iran’s President Rouhani is “serious about investigating” the death of Seyed-Emami, according to Reuters.

Canada cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012.

CNN has reached out to Iran’s government for comment on the cases of both Maryam Mombeini, and her late husband.