British Columbia

Sons of Iranian-Canadian professor who died in Tehran prison back in Canada

The two sons of a Canadian-Iranian professor who died in a Tehran prison last month have arrived in Vancouver. They say their mother, Maryam Mombeini, was temporarily detained by Iranian authorities while trying to board a flight to Canada on Thursday.

Mother told her sons 'don't ever come back' as they boarded plane without her

The Seyed-Emami brothers touched down at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday morning. Their mother was detained in Iran and prevented from boarding the flight. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The sons of a Canadian-Iranian professor who died in a Tehran prison last month have arrived back in Canada, a day after Canada's foreign affairs minister expressed her "outrage'' that their mother was prevented from leaving Iran.

Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami touched down at Vancouver International Airport at 11:30 a.m. PT. Their mother, Maryam Mombeini, was temporarily detained by Iranian authorities while trying to board their flight. 

Mehran said his mother's Iranian passport was taken away in an attempt to "intimidate" the family into staying silent about what happened to their father.

"They are trying to prevent us from rebuilding our lives," he said in Vancouver. 

Kavous Seyed-Emami, right, is seen in this undated photo with his son, Mehran, and wife, Maryam. Authorities in Tehran say Seyed-Emami, who was 63, committed suicide while in Iran's notorious Evin prison. (Family photo)

Authorities in Tehran said their father and husband, Kavous Seyed-Emami, committed suicide while in Iran's notorious Evin prison — just two weeks after being arrested on suspicion of espionage and spying. 

Family and friends do not believe he took his own life. Iranian authorities have denied the family's request for an autopsy.

Ramin Seyed-Emami said his family "just wanted to get out of the country" after being harassed by the Iranian authorities, including with a smear campaign they say was broadcast across the nation.

"We couldn't take it anymore," he said.

Kavous Seyed-Emami, seen in Iran in an undated handout photo. (CP/HO, Samid Lotfi, Center for Human Rights in Iran)

After touching down in Vancouver, Mehran read a statement he and his brother wrote on the plane.

"Instead of being able to grieve the loss of our father in peace, we have been forced to endure constant threats and harassment by the Iranian authorities," he said.

"The emotional damage and distress we've endured are beyond comprehension. To separate my mother from her two sons at such a crucial time is inhumane.

"Today is International Women's Day, and we should be honouring our mother."

He teared up when asked about their goodbye.

"She said, 'I just want you guys to be safe and away from this horrible place and, no matter what happens to me, don't ever come back.'"

Ramin Seyed-Emami spoke through tears describing their mother's goodbye after she wasn't allowed on their flight from Iran to Canada. Seyed-Emami said she told her sons she 'just wanted [them] to be safe.' (Chris Corday/CBC)

Canadian minister's 'outrage'

All three surviving members of the family are dual citizens of Iran and Canada, having previously lived in Toronto and Vancouver.​ Mehran said his mother is currently staying with friends.

On Wednesday, Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted that she is demanding that Mombeini "be given the freedom to return home'' to Canada. 

Mehran said the family has spoken to Freeland on the phone, who assured them Mombeini will make it out of Iran.

Freeland also issued a statement Thursday, welcoming the Seyed-Emami sons back to Canada.

"At the same time, we were outraged to learn that their mother, Maryam Mombeini, Mr. Seyed-Emami's widow, was barred from leaving Iran for no apparent reason,'' she said.

​With files from Laura LynchBriar Stewart and The Canadian Press