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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Family of Iran environmentalist demands post-mortem

Founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation died in custody, two weeks after arrest on espionage charges

The family of an environmentalist who died in an Iranian prison have called for a post-mortem, their lawyer said on Tuesday, rejecting claims by officials that they had accepted the explanation of suicide.

"The family has put in a request for a post-mortem," Arash Keikhosravi, lawyer for the family of Iranian-Canadian Kavous Seyed Emami, told the reformist Shargh newspaper.

He said the coroner's office had also put in a routine request for a post-mortem.

Emami's family were informed on Friday that the professor and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation had died in custody just over two weeks after being arrested on espionage charges.

On Monday, Allaedin Borujerdi, head of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said the family had watched a film from his cell and accepted the official explanation that the 63-year-old had committed suicide.

"In the film you see that Kavous Seyed Emami is taking off his shirt and is getting prepared for suicide," Mr Borujerdi told the parliament news agency.

"His family too have accepted this incident and so have not asked for an autopsy," he added.

However, the family's lawyer told Shargh: "I do not confirm Mr Borujerdi's remarks that the family did not request a post-mortem."

Emami's son Ramin, a singer, said on Instagram that the family had launched a legal complaint in connection with the death.

"It is absolutely essential that you rely on my Instagram, Telegram and Twitter posts for official news relating to future findings. There are no other reliable sources," he said.

He said the family expected to receive the body on Tuesday and that a funeral would take place in the village of Ammameh, 40 kilometres north of Tehran.

Read more: Iranian environmental activist dies in prison, son says

Asked about the family's reaction to the film, their lawyer said: "There are scenes showing Mr Seyed Emami in his solitary cell.

"Apparently it has been thought that Mr Seyed Emami committed suicide there but there is not enough evidence."

Seven other members of the wildlife NGO are behind bars.

The environmental community has also been rocked by the apparent detention of Kaveh Madani, deputy head of the Environmental Protection Organisation, at the weekend.

He was back at work on Monday and released a message on social media saying: "I am safe".

A water conservation activist trained in the United States, Mr Madani was plucked in September from his job at Imperial College London to join the government and was heralded as a symbol of President Hassan Rouhani's efforts to encourage the return of Iranians from abroad.

Emami is the second Canadian citizen to die in Iran's prisons following the murder in 2003 of 54-year-old Zahra Kazemi, who was arrested for taking photos outside Evin prison.

The vice-president at the time, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, stated she died from "a brain haemorrhage caused by a beating".