Iran Claims Professor who Died in Custody Worked for CIA, Israel’s Mossad

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reports that a dual Iranian and Canadian citizen who killed himself in custody was sending information to the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.

The report Tuesday says Kavous Seyed-Emami, a university professor, was in custody for passing information on the country’s missile bases to the CIA and Mossad and planning to create an environmental crisis. The report didn’t elaborate, CBS News reports.

IRNA quotes Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabdi as saying Seyed-Emami and a network of people installed cameras in strategic areas of the country pretending to observe environmental issues but, in fact, “it was for monitoring the country’s missile activities and they were sending images and information to foreigners.”

Dolatabdi said Seyed-Emami hosted one of two U.S. intelligence officers during their visit to Iran. He didn’t elaborate.

The allegation comes after Israel shot down a drone that crossed the country’s border on Saturday. Israel accused Iran of using a base inside Syria to launch the drone. Israel retaliated with a strike from an F-16, and Syrians fired back, knocking an Israeli jet out of the sky for the first time in 36 years.

“I think both sides don’t want to go to war, and the very delicate decisions between escalation and containment will continue to be the main dilemma for the decision-makers in Tehran and in Jerusalem,” Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli army intelligence chief, told Doane.

On Monday, an Iranian lawmaker told the semi-official ILNA news agency that some members of parliament, including moderate deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari, said after watching CCTV footage from Seyed-Emami’s time in custody in Tehran that he took his life. The head of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said Seyed-Emami’s “family also accepted this, so they did not ask for an autopsy.”

“The video showed that Seyed-Emami takes his shirt off and prepares for suicide. Unfortunately, Kavos Seyed-Emami, for whatever reason, could not bear the prison conditions,” Boroujerdi said, adding that considering that he was a university professor, he was kept in a proper cell.

The semi-official Fars news agency quoted the spokesman of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, as saying, “The issue is quite clear because prepares his shirt as a rope to commit suicide.”

Hosseini added that Seyed-Emami tried to make it appear to guards that he was asleep.

Meanwhile, 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.

“We are seriously concerned by the situation surrounding the detention and death of Mr. Seyed-Emami. A Canadian has died. 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,” Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement.

Freeland pledged “to use every means at Canada’s disposal to seek further information.”

A post-mortem was carried out on Emami’s body on Monday after family and colleagues raised doubts about his suicide. Payam Derafshan, a lawyer for the family, told the ILNA news agency that he had watched a video from the cell along with the family, which authorities have said proves he killed himself.

“Because there is not a good angle… the act of suicide is not clear,” Derafshan told ILNA.

Omar Alghabra, Canada’s parliamentary secretary for consular affairs, tweeted that the Canadian government was concerned about the circumstances of the death.

“Our thoughts are with his family. Canada has asked Iranian authorities for answers,” Alghabra tweeted.

That prompted a strong response from Senator Linda Frum, who wondered on Twitter why Ottawa wasn’t taking a harder line in demanding to know what happened.

“‘Concerned’?! How about outraged?” Frum tweeted. “Asked for answers? How about demanding the immediate releases [sic] of his body to Canada?”

Canada should be demanding an independent autopsy, performed by Canadian examiners, said Frum.

“In the absence of that, I think they should be presumed that this is now another Canadian national who’s been murdered in Evin Prison. It is outrageous, and I think they should be suspending their talks on reopening the embassy with Iran,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the 2015 election campaign to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, but a brutal crackdown on widespread unrest in that country late last year prompted opposition calls for the government to reconsider.

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.