Let grieving wife of dead environmentalist leave Iran, son pleads | World news

The son of an Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in a Tehran prison under mysterious circumstances has called on Iran to allow his grieving mother to leave the country.

Maryam Mombeini, 55, was stopped last month by the security guards at Tehran’s international airport just before boarding a flight to Canada with her two sons after the death in custody of her husband, Kavous Seyed-Emami.

The Iranian-Canadian widow remains barred from leaving the country despite calls by the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who has urged Tehran leaders to provide answers about Seyed-Emami’s death and let his wife join the rest of her family.

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Iran must allow Maryam Mombeini to leave the country and travel to Canada to be with her family – and the regime must provide answers in the death of her husband, Kavous Seyed-Emami, in Evin prison.


March 19, 2018

In January, Seyed-Emami, the 63-year-old founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was taken to the notorious Evin prison as part of a crackdown on a group of environmental activists, many of whom worked for his organisation.

Two weeks later, the authorities told his family that Seyed-Emami had killed himself, but that claim has been met widespread scepticism, especially as it comes after similar deaths in custody of a number of other prisoners in recent months that have remained unexplained.

“A widow of 37 years, a mother of two, someone who has gone through so much, does not deserve to be treated this way,” Mehran Seyed-Emami, one of the environmentalist’s two sons, told the Guardian.

“No belief, ideology, or political faction promotes this kind of treatment against a mother, especially one who’s already suffered so much. She deserves the right to grieve in peace in a calm and relaxed state, together with her immediate family.”

The son recalled the day his mother was prevented by the authorities from boarding the flight. “We had gone to airport along with 10 of our friends and were all waiting in the [business] lounge. We had checked in our 10 bags and three dogs, and were not expecting any surprises.”

“Right around 1:45am when we approached the last security gate, some guy in plain clothes came up running and shouting my mom’s name. We knew something was up immediately. He notified us that ‘your mum cannot board the flight and me and Raam [his brother, Ramin] need to decide whether to stay or leave immediately’ (we were the last passengers to board). My mum unselfishly told us to go.”

Seyed-Emami’s foundation sought to protect Iran’s rare animals, including the Asiatic cheetah – one of the world’s most endangered species, with only 50 remaining.

Iran’s judiciary has described him as an agent of the CIA and Mossad who had used the wildlife foundation as a cover to collect information about the country’s missile bases. Little if any evidence has been provided in public to back that allegation, or the claims that he took his life in jail.

His son Ramin, who watched a CCTV video showing him in his prison cell in the hours before his death, said it did not justify claims that he took his life.

In the days after news broke about Seyed-Emami’s death the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, set up a four-member committee to investigate the deaths in custody of prisoners.

Mehran Seyed-Emami said the family has yet to receive any official response, privately or publicly, from the Iranian government about the investigation.

In February the UN environment head, Erik Solheim, called on Iran to respect the work of environmental activists. According to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), at least 13 environmental activists have been detained since January, when protests over economic and political grievances spread to as many as 80 cities. Many believe that environmental issues, such as pollution, water scarcity and drying up of wetlands are an underlying factor behind the recent upwelling of public discontent.