Family of Canadian who died in Iranian prison sues state TV

The chances of winning a slander lawsuit against Iran state television are slim, but that has not stopped the sons of an Iranian-Canadian academic who died under suspicious circumstances last February in a Tehran prison.

In an action filed this week in Tehran, Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami claim a program aired on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting less than a week after their father’s Feb. 9 death falsely portrayed him as a spy passing military secrets to the United States and Israel.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, a dual citizen of Iran and Canada, taught sociology at a Tehran university and was chairman of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation when he was arrested along with other members of the organization in January.

Omid Memarian, deputy director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said the Feb. 13 program “Restricted Area” added sinister music to innocuous home videos of Seyed-Emami enjoying the wilderness to suggest he was spying on military installations.

“That was entirely illegal, immoral, inhumane,” Memarian said. “It was a program that manipulated the truth to create an image of Dr. Emami to justify the actions of the judiciary during the time he was in prison.”

Ramin Seyed-Emami, who with his brother managed to leave Iran for Canada in March, said he recognizes there is little hope of a favourable ruling from an Iranian court.

But he hopes the case can shed light on Iran’s propaganda apparatus and possibly prevent another death like his father’s. “It is bringing unwanted attention. The authorities hate seeing this kind of attention,” he said.

With the attention comes a reminder to the outside world that their mother, Maryam Mombeini, who also has Canadian citizenship, remains trapped in Iran.

Iranian authorities turned her back at the Tehran airport in March when she attempted to leave for Vancouver with her sons. As she was detained, she reportedly told them to leave and never come back to “this horrible place.”

Ramin Seyed-Emami said his mother’s life has become a nightmare. “In Iran, my mother is constantly harassed and threatened. Our house was raided again a few weeks ago and she was interrogated again,” he said. This week she was told to report to Evin prison, the same prison where her husband died, for more questioning, he said.

A prosecutor said the death was a suicide by strangulation, but the family has not been given a copy of the autopsy report and their calls for an independent investigation have gone unanswered.

Ramin Seyed-Emami said Iranian authorities have been very secretive about the circumstances of his father’s death. Nothing the family has learned so far gives “any indication that our father would willingly take his own life,” he said.

According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an opposition news site reported in April that the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation members had opposed the installation of missile sites in environmentally protected areas.

Memarian said environmentalists are targeted as part of the regime’s effort to “suffocate” civil society.

He urged the Canadian government to apply more pressure on Iran. “They should have been more harsh on Iran, because Iranians react to pressure,” he said. “A man died there, and (Iran is) refusing to investigate and harassing the family.”

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the government is working to get Mombeini out of Iran.

“Canada remains outraged that Maryam Mombeini is unable to leave Iran and we continue to call on the Iranian authorities to allow her to return home to Canada,” he said. “We are concerned about Mrs. Mombeini’s health. She must be allowed to return home and be reunited with her sons.”

He added that Freeland has spoken about the case directly to the Iranian Foreign Minister and to Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, as well as with allies that have diplomatic ties to Iran.

Ramin Seyed-Emami said Canadian officials have been helpful and communicative. But they are confronted with a situation where those he holds responsible for his father’s death and his mother’s travel ban — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — operate above the law.

“We just want this nightmare to end,” he said. “We just want to get on with our lives in a peaceful manner back in Canada, be able to grieve here and be able to go back to our routine of living a normal, happy, fulfilling life.”

Source » nationalpost

You May Be Interested