National Newswatch

TORONTO — An Iranian-Canadian human rights advocate found dead in his home north of Toronto this week was a kind, polite gentleman who never argued with anyone, friends of his said Friday as police asked for help with the investigation.

York Regional Police have identified Mohammad Mehdi Amin Sadeghieh, 58, as the victim of a suspected homicide. Sadeghieh — who went by Mehdi Amin — was found dead in his townhouse on Wednesday afternoon, a police spokesman said.

Ardeshir Zarezadeh, a Toronto-based human rights advocate who fled Iran in 2004, said he first met Amin at a political gathering 10 years ago.

"He caught my attention because I found him very polite and very nice. Unlike many, he never argued with people," Zarezadeh said in an interview Friday.

Over the next decade, the two got to know each other and eventually became like brothers, Zarezadeh said. He last heard from Amin on Oct. 12, when they wished each other a happy Thanksgiving. They had planned to go on a bicycle ride together, but it never happened.

"I got so busy. I don't know ... He was in my mind every day, and I had this feeling that, 'I have to call him.' Very strange feeling. I was under the impression that, 'It's getting late, I have to call him and we have to plan for this bicycling together for next week.' But I was so busy," Zarezadeh said.

Police have not identified a suspected motive in Amin's killing, and a spokesman would only say Friday that investigators will look at "everything."

"Investigators will take any piece of information — any little tip, anything — and investigate that thoroughly ," Sgt. Andy Pattenden said in an interview.

"But as far as what they have looked at or what connections they've drawn or anything with regards to motive — (that) is something that we wouldn't release as part of an ongoing investigation."

Investigators are particularly interested in video footage from Amin's townhouse complex, where Pattenden said security cameras are plentiful. They also want to know what happened to Amin's vehicle, a black Honda CRV, which was not found at the home.

Zarezadeh was careful not to jump to conclusions about his friend's death, but urged police to take seriously the idea that it could have been politically motivated in some way.

"I only think of the agents of the Iranian regime as his first and last enemy," he said. "That's the only thing I can think of."

Kaveh Shahrooz, a Toronto-based lawyer and human rights activist who also knew Amin, reiterated Zarezadeh's calls for a thorough investigation, saying many in the Iranian-Canadian community are feeling unsafe.

"I really hope that the authorities take the concerns of the community seriously. I hope they do investigate the political angle," Shahrooz said in an interview.

"Even if it turns out to be that this was not politically motivated, I hope that our security agencies understand the fear that we live with. Because you know, we're fighting back against a regime that has no hesitation in using violence against its critics either at home or abroad."

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Iranian regime has been responsible for "as many as 360 targeted assassinations in other countries" since coming to power in 1979.

"Iranian diplomatic personnel have repeatedly been implicated in assassinations abroad, as evidenced by arrest warrants, judicial and police investigations, intelligence services, and witness reports," according to a May 2020 fact sheet on the State department website.

Neither Public Safety Canada nor Global Affairs Canada immediately responded to requests for comment.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

Adam Burns, The Canadian Press

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