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A friend of an Iranian-Canadian academic who died in an Iranian prison disputes Tehran’s claim that he took his own life.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, 63, was an environmental activist and academic imprisoned by Iranian authorities and later died in detention, his son said on social media on Saturday.

On his Instagram account, Raam Emami wrote that authorities said his father had killed himself.

But Seyed-Emami’s friend Ahmad Sadri finds that “very, very hard to believe.”

“The suicide came as such a shock to his friends and to the academic community,” Sadri, who met Seyed-Emami at an Iranian university during a sabbatical, told CBC News on Sunday.

“It is impossible for me to even consider the possibility of him contemplating suicide,” he said, adding that Seyed-Emami was “physically and psychologically very well put together.

“The situation, the news is so sketchy and the information is too unbelievable.”

A family statement released on Sunday called on Iran to allow an independent autopsy of Seyed-Emami’s body.

“You cannot be both the accused and the investigator and expect people to believe your conclusion,” a family member said in the statement.

The statement also said the Iranian government have conducted their own autopsy and have not yet informed the family of the results.

Sadri urges the Canadian government to pressure Iran “to create clarity about this horrible tragedy.”

“I think the Iran government is obligated to provide a detailed account of what really happened to him.”

Canada has no embassy in Iran. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations in 2012. Since then, Italy has represented Canada’s interests in the country.

A spokesperson for Global Affairs told CBC News in an emailed statement on Saturday that consular officials “are working to gather additional information and are providing assistance to the family of the Canadian citizen.”

Until then, Sadri said he will continue to mourn Seyed-Emami’s death and remember his passion and love for the outdoors and hiking.

“He was a dear friend,” said Sadri. “He dedicated his life to the protection of the environement.”

The statement said the family, despite being banned from holding a funeral service or memorial service, plans a service for Tuesday morning in the vallage of Amameh.

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