The son of a well-known Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in Iranian custody says his mother was threatened by authorities to remain silent about the case.
Kavous Seyed-Emami's death along with other inmate "suicides" have sparked a government probe and fueled tension between Iran's dominant hard-line institutions and its president, a relative moderate.
Iranian officials have said that dual national Seyed-Emami, the managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and a lecturer in sociology in Tehran, committed suicide at Evin prison last week, weeks after his arrest on espionage charges.
That account has been questioned by acquaintances and family.
Then Emami's son, Ramin, a popular singer, said in a February 14 blog post that his mother was told of her husband's death after being "interrogated and threatened" for three hours last week.
He said she was forced “to sign a paper not to speak to the media, otherwise she would be put in prison.”
Iranian media said President Hassan Rohani has formed an investigative committee that includes three government ministers to look into the spate of jail deaths.
In addition to Seyed-Emami, officials have announced at least two "suicides" by suspects picked up during street unrest that erupted in dozens of cities across Iran in December and early January.
Ramin Seyed-Emami said a video that officials have claimed proves that his father committed suicide is “inconclusive.”
"I will not speak of the pain of seeing this video, but I will say that nothing in it is conclusive. The actual death is not recorded," he wrote.
Seyed-Emami was arrested in January along with seven other members of his NGO, which works to protect endangered animals and raise public awareness about the environment, raising fears that they might be victims of a broader battle for political influence.
Tehran Prosecutor Jafar Dolatabadi has claimed that the arrested environmentalists collected "information from the country's sensitive and vital centers, including missile bases" on behalf of the CIA and Israel's Mossad.
Rohani and his reformist and moderate allies acknowledged grounds for public grievances amid the recent street protests, further pitting them against hard-liners including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who emphasized the alleged role of "foreign enemies."
Critics of the Iranian authorities' tough crackdown on the last outpouring of public anger onto the streets, after a disputed presidential election in 2009, accused officials at the time of abuse and responsibility for detainee deaths.