UPDATE 1500 GMT: Authorities have arrested Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the Environment Ministry.

Madani is a former associate professor of Imperial College London.

Iranian-Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami (pictured) has died in a Tehran prison under interrogation.

Iranian authorities declared that Seyed-Emami, arrested on January 24, committed suicide on Friday by hanging himself — a claim that they also made about two of the detainees who died in custody during nationwide protests in late December and early January.

Human rights activists have called for an investigation into the three deaths. They also said officials must stop harassing Seyed-Emami’s family, pressuring them into conducting a burial before the completion of an independent autopsy and medical investigation of the cause of death.

Seyed-Emami’s Ramin, an Iranian musician, first posted the news of his father’s death on social media: “The news…is impossible to fathom.”

Seyed-Emami, 63, was a professor of sociology at Imam Sadeq University and the managing director of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation.

The day after the academic’s death, Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi said Iranian security forces had arrested environmental activists: “These individuals were gathering classified information in strategic
fields under the guise of scientific and environmental projects.”

At least nine other staff members and executives of the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation were also taken into custody, according to a relative of one of the detainees. One, Morad Tahbaz, is an Iranian-American dual national; another is Niloufar Bayani, an advisor to the UN Environmental Program in Geneva for five years.

Security agents warned families that if news of the arrests reaches the media, the detainees will be treated more harshly.

“Since their arrest, there has been no phone contact and they have not had access to a lawyer. We really don’t know what they are accused of,” said the relative of one of the detainees.

Seyed-Emami is the second Iranian-Canadian who has died in custody in Iran. In July 2003, photographer Zahra Kazemi died under suspicious circumstances while being interrogated in Evin Prison. Her case remains unsolved.
lawyers and Canadian officials.

At least 12 dual and foreign nationals and foreign permanent residents are being held in Iranian prisons.