“Revealing” Preliminary Autopsy Report Omits Cause of Death of Iranian Canadian Who Died in Iranian Prison
Family and UN Officials Have Called for Investigation Into Claims Kavous Seyed-Emami Committed Suicide
Two months have passed since Iranian Canadian academic and environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami died in Iran’s Evin Prison and officials have still not released a final autopsy report. But the preliminary report mentions “bruises on different parts of the body,” according to attorney Payam Derafshan.
Speaking to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on April 19, 2018, Derafshan, who is representing the Seyed-Emami family in Iran, added that the medical examiner noted an injection on the skin and bruises on the body.
“We have seen the medical examiner’s initial opinion, which is very revealing, such as bruises on different parts of the body and evidence of an injection on his skin,” Derafshan said. “It does not say the precise time of death. It mentions signs of bruises around the neck caused by the weight of the body but nothing about whether the death occurred by suffocation, heart failure or drug poisoning.”
Iranian officials have claimed Seyed-Emami, the managing director of the Iran-based Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation, committed suicide in his cell by hanging himself two weeks after he was arrested on January 23, 2018.
Officials made this claim, along with further unsubstantiated accusations that Seyed-Emami, 63, had engaged in espionage, almost immediately after his wife was informed of his death on February 9, 2018.
CCTV footage of Seyed-Emami’s last hours in his cell does not show the exact moment of this death.
“The main issue we are pursuing is finding out what psychological pressures were put on Mr. Seyed-Emami,” Derafshan told CHRI. “We want to know how a man in his social position was driven in that direction [of suicide]? The medical examiner’s final report, including blood analysis, has not been issued so it’s not as if they have come and said ‘there’s no evidence of blood poisoning; go home, case closed.’”
Derafshan added: “Even if it’s proven that he used his own hands to take off his shirt [to hang himself with] and commit suicide without taking any drugs [that were given to him], we question what happened that drove a university professor to do such a thing?”
Derafshan said he has been struggling to obtain the footage of Seyed-Emami being interrogated in Evin Prison before his death.
“Yesterday [April 18] we were at the office of the prosecutor for criminal affairs,” he said. “The case investigator Mr. Shahriari informed us that he had requested and received video clips from the prosecutor’s office for security affairs showing meetings during interrogation between the late Seyed-Emami and other suspects in the case…”
Continued Derafshan: “We want these clips to be handed over to us to see what was said during these meetings. Since the presidential committee set up to investigate this case has not issued any formal report to the public, we will tell the people what happened.”
President Hassan Rouhani announced on February 14 that he had created the committee to “investigate and follow up on the unpleasant incidents in some detention centers” but there has been no movement on that front.
Asked about the status of Seyed-Emami’s widow, Maryam Mombeini, who has been banned from leaving Iran, Derafshan told CHRI that her passport has been confiscated but she has not been formally charged.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know on what basis she has been banned from leaving the country,” he said. “Whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with the Judiciary. It’s a security decision.”
On March 8, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted that she was “outraged to learn” that Mombeini had been “barred” from leaving Iran with her sons, Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami.
“We demand that, as a Canadian, she be given the freedom to return home,” said Freeland.