Iranian scholar and environmental activist dies in prison

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"He was one of the defendants in a spying case and unfortunately he committed suicide in prison since he knew that many had made confessions against him and because of his own confessions", Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi told the ILNA news agency.

Announcing the death on social media, Seyed-Emami's son, Ramin, cast doubt on the official claim that the cause was suicide.

A colleague of Iranian-Canadian academic Kavous Seyed-Emami describes the professor's death in prison in Iran as a "profound tragedy".

Authorities on Friday called Seyed-Emami's wife to say her husband had committed suicide in Tehran's Evin prison, his son tweeted. "I still can't believe this", Ramin, a well-known singer, said. A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs told CBC News in an emailed statement that consular officials "are working to gather additional information and are providing assistance to the family of the Canadian citizen".

On Saturday the prosecutor said the Iranian authorities had arrested people who had been gathering classified information "under the coverage of scientific and environmental projects". Seyed-Emami had said he felt it was his duty to teach his opposing views.

According to a post on its website, the group "strives to ease the heavy strain on rare wildlife of Iran".

The Iran Sociology Association, of which Seyed-Emami was a member, also questioned the official cause of death.

'The information published about him is not believable, and we expect officials to respond and to provide the public with information concerning his death, ' it said.

Another member of the environmentalist group detained in Iran last month was Morad Tahbaz, who has dual Iranian-US citizenship.

Seyed-Emami's death was not immediately reported in Iranian media amid nationwide rallies marking the 39th anniversary of the country's Islamic Revolution.

Mr Seyed-Emami ran the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and was a sociology professor. "He loved Iran and the environment".

A leading opposition politician in Iran, Mostafa Tajzadeh, referred to other recent deaths in prisons which he wants investigated and said that President Hassan Rouhani "must do the same until the real reasons of the death of Dr. Sayed Emami is clear to public".

Ghaemi said Seyed-Emami's detention is part of a two-year trend of Iranian authorities accusing prominent dual nationals of espionage, but he noted the charges are "rarely backed up by any evidence".

In November, an article by the semi-official Tasnim news agency was highly critical of the foundation.

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