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Canada presses Iran for details on death of Iranian-Canadian in Tehran jail

(Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Tuesday it was "seriously concerned" with the circumstances surrounding the death of an Iranian-Canadian dual citizen in a Tehran prison, and that it was pressing Iran to provide details on what happened.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, an environmental activist and sociology professor, was arrested on Jan. 24 and died in prison, his son wrote on Twitter last week. Iran's judiciary said on Sunday that Seyed-Emami, 63, had committed suicide.

"We are seriously concerned by the situation surrounding the detention and death of Mr. Seyed-Emami," Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.

"We expect the Government of Iran to provide information and answers into the circumstances surrounding this tragedy. We will continue to use every means at Canada's disposal to seek further information."

Seyed-Emami was the managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, an organization aimed at protecting Iran's rare animals, and a U.S.-trained scholar in sociology.

He was arrested the same day as at least nine other staff members at his organization, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a non-profit group based in New York.

Iran's judiciary said Seyed-Emami was a defendant in a spying case and had committed suicide because of the weight of evidence against him, an Iranian news agency reported on Sunday.

He died in Tehran's Evin prison, his son said.

Canada does not have an embassy in Iran. Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been tense since an Iranian-Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, was beaten to death in prison in 2003 after she was detained while taking pictures.

Dozens of dual nationals are in jail in Iran, mostly on spying charges.

(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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