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Iran releases widow of Iranian-Canadian who died in jail

Maryam Mombeini had been prevented from departing Iran since March 2018, following death of her husband in Iranian jail
Kavous Seyed-Emami at unidentified location in photo released by his family last year (AFP)

Iran has released the wife of an Iranian-Canadian environmental activist who died in a Tehran prison last year, her family and Canadian officials said on Friday.

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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 following month.

Following his death, Mombeini had been barred from leaving the country. 

Iran's judiciary said Seyed-Emami, 63, committed suicide, an account the family says is unlikely, Reuters news agency reported. 

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.

Canadian 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, according to Reuters. 

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, Reuters reported. 

Bilateral ties between Iran and Canada worsened in 2003 when an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, died in Tehran’s Evin prison while in custody.

In 2012, Canada cut all diplomatic ties with Iran.