By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Iran has released the wife of an Iranian-Canadian environmental activist who died in a Tehran prison after it barred her from leaving the country for 18 months, her family and Canadian officials said on Friday.
Maryam Mombeini is the widow of Kavous Seyed-Emami, an environmental activist and sociology professor who was arrested in January 2018 and died in prison the next month.
Iran’s judiciary said Seyed-Emami, 63, committed suicide, an account the family says is unlikely.
Mombeini, who had been prevented from departing Iran since March 2018, arrived home in Vancouver late on Thursday, her son Raam said on Twitter.
“We are finally reunited with our beautiful mother! We spent 582 days dreaming of this moment. We’re still in shock and trying to process our emotions,” he said.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she was relieved by the news. Canada had worked behind the scenes to press for Mombeini’s release, said a Canadian government official.
“We are grateful to the Canadian government, and specifically Foreign Minister Freeland for their unwavering support from day one. We are also thankful to Iran for allowing our mother … to finally leave,” Raam said by email.
Mombeini returned just five days after Iranian authorities freed an Australian couple who spent more than three months in a prison in Tehran.
The Canadian government official said Mombeini’s release had removed a “big obstacle” to the process of improving relations. Canada cut all diplomatic ties with Iran in 2012.
“We had had a couple of visits of Iranian officials here and we had visited there a couple of times as part of seeking some level of re-engagement and we put that all on ice after she was subject to the travel ban,” said the official, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
Bilateral ties between Iran and Canada worsened in 2003 when an Iranian-Canadian photo journalist, Zahra Kazemi, died in Tehran’s Evin prison while in custody.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)