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IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI

Published Thursday, July 15, 2004



OTTAWA-TEHRAN, 15 July (IPS) In continuation of its new policy of “building tension”, the Islamic Republic of Iran entered a new phase of diplomatic conflict with Canada after it refused to allow Canadian observers attending the trial of a man suspected to have caused the death of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist murdered last year while in an Iranian prison.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham recalled Ambassador Philip MacKinnon on Wednesday after learning that Canadian observers will not be allowed at the trial of Mr. Mohammad Reza Aqdam Ahmadi, an official at the Intelligence Ministry the authorities suspects for the death of Ms. Kazemi.

Arrested on 23 June last year for taking pictures of families of political prisoners demonstrating outside the notorious Evin Prison in the outskirt of Tehran, the 54 years-old Kazemi was interrogated for several days and nights by agents from the Police, the Judiciary and the Intelligence Ministry, one of them hitting her head with a heavy object, according to an official report.

She died on 10 of July in a military hospital, while the three administrations were accusing each other for the death that created a national and international outrage.

IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI-Body-3
Arrested on 23 June last year for taking pictures of families of political prisoners outside Evin Prison, the 54 years-old Kazemi was hit with with a heavy object to her head by interrogators.

Iranian authorities initially said Kazemi, a Canadian of Iranian origin, died of a stroke in jail. But a committee appointed by President Mohammad Khatami later found that she died of a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage from a heavy blow to the head.

According to Iranian and foreign press, it was Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, the Prosecutor of Tehran and the Islamic Revolution Tribunal who hit the photojournalist while interrogating her.

Ahmadi's lawyer, Qasem Shabani, also said Kazemi received the head blow while in the hands of judiciary agents before being turned over to Intelligence Ministry interrogators.

IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI-Body-4

Iranian reformists have accused Mortazavi of illegally detaining Kazemi and then covering up facts surrounding her death.

But because he is protected directly by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic in the one hand and the Intelligence Ministry which is under the control of the government of the powerless President Mohammad Khatami on the other, it was decided that the culprit is Mr. Aqdam Ahmadi, who is to be tried on Saturday.

Most Iranians and international organisation as well as Mr. Stephen Hashemi, the 26 years-old son of the murdered photographer believe that the trial would be a “show” to close down the case once for all.

Mr. Aqdam Ahmadi pleaded not guilty to "semi-premediated murder" at the trial's first and only session last October and on Wednesday Mr. Khatami backed him, saying: "I believe the agent was not guilty. I hope the court will bravely be able to identify the guilty person."

The murder has strained diplomatic relations between Tehran and Ottawa that recalled its ambassador to Iran soon after the murder but returned the diplomat after co-operation was promised.

“They had promised that we would have three observers at the trial”, said Mr. Graham, who declared his “extreme outrage” at the development. “This is completely unacceptable behaviour on their part”, the outraged Graham said adding, “It's a complete rejection of the rule of law”.

“Under all human-rights codes, under all international-law standards, this should be a public trial with the right, certainly, of the family to be present to assure that justice is done”, the Minister said, pointing out that the victim is a Canadian citizen and Canada has “all the right to have observers at the trial of her suspected murderer”.

IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI-Body-2

Iranian Judiciary officials had indicated that Canadian diplomats may be allowed to attend the trial but said they would not allow any Canadian interference in the legal proceedings. Mr. Mackinnon had attended court proceedings last year.

Iranian authorities initially said Kazemi, a Canadian of Iranian origin, died of a stroke in jail. But a committee appointed by President Mohammad Khatami later found that she died of a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage from a heavy blow to the head.

But Mr. Hamid Reza Asefi, Iran's Foreign Affairs Ministry’s senior spokesman said Wednesday that the case being a “domestic issue”, there is no place for foreign observers.

"The request for the presence of Canadian observers is contrary to all international principles and regulations and is unacceptable", Mr Asefi said on state television.

Ms. Kazemi was born in Shiraz, the capital city of the Fars Province situated 700 kilometres south of Tehran and had entered Iran on an Iranian passport and Iran does not accept dual nationality.

Iranian authorities never acknowledged Ms. Kazemi’s Canadian citizenship.

IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI-Body

Most Iranians and international organisation as well as Mr. Stephen Hashemi, the 26 years-old son of the murdered photographer believe that the trial would be a “show” to close down the case once for all.

Mr. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, a lawyer for the Kazemi family said the trial of Mr. Aqdam Ahmadi at an Islamic Revolution court is illegal. “The accused must be tried in an ordinary criminal court and the trial must be open and public”.

Mr. Graham had placed the demand for the presence of Canadian observers with his Iranian counterpart three weeks ago and insisted that the Iranian had “promised” to cooperate.

According to Canadian newspaper, the Foreign Affairs Minister is weighing a range of responses, from seeking a hearing at the International Court of Justice, taking the case to the United Nations to slapping economic sanctions on Iran.

Dr. Mohammad Ali Mousavi, Iran's ambassador to Canada, said Graham's reaction was "a bit early".

"The court hasn't taken its session," he told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview Wednesday. "It would be a bit early to judge on a court that hasn't been put in session".

He said Graham's reaction doesn't help. "I think we could give more time through co-operation and collaboration we could move forward . . . It's not constructive", he said. "It doesn't open lines of constructive dialogue to move into applying both countries' wishes".

The ambassador said there is no obligation on any country and on any sovereign court to accept a foreign observer in the courtroom. “Iran's judicial process should be respected”, he pointed out. "It's the same in Canada", he said. "You might like to see many things in the court.

Lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist is expected to represent the victim's family at trial.

Iran-Canada relations entered stormy phase at a time that Tehran relations with the rest of the world is also undergoing a dramatic turn, from the “détente” policy observed by President Khatami to the “confrontation” adopted by the ruling conservatives since they secured the control of the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament in last February.

Under heavy international pressures because of its controversial nuclear activities that the United States and Israel insist are aimed at building a atomic arsenal, Tehran also opted for confrontation with both the International Atomic Energy Agency and Europe’s “Big 3”, in Britain, France and Germany.

At the same time, a spat of seizure of fishing boats operating in the Persian Gulf by naval units of Iran and some sheikhdoms have troubled the waters between Tehran and the Arab rulers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. ENDS IRAN CANADA RELATIONS 15704


 

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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at http://wwwdamavandsafa.blogspot.com


IRAN AND CANADA RELATIONS SUFFERS OVER THE MURDER OF Ms. KAZEMI-Main
Zahra Kazemi was murdered in an Iranian prison by official interrogators



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