TEHRAN, 28 July (IPS) The Iranian Judiciary has taken a new rabbit out of its sleeve concerning the murder of Mrs Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photographer, announcing on Wednesday 28 July 2004 that she had died of a “sudden drop in her blood sugar caused by hunger strike”.
The new finding emerged in the form of a stern statement by the Tehran branch of Justice Ministry in which the official spokesman of the Government was also severely criticised.
At first, the authorities had reported that the photographer, who had been arrested on 23 June on orders of Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi, the Prosecutor of Tehran and Islamic Revolution Tribunal in front of the notorious Evin prison in the outskirts of the Capital, charged with espionage --, died of a brain stroke.
The death of the late Kazemi was because of a drop in her blood sugar level caused by her hunger strike, thus making her fall from a standing position and get hurt
But a ministerial committee formed on orders from President Mohammad Khatami concluded that Mrs Kazemi had died on 10 July 2003 from a “brain hemorrhage caused by a heavy object hitting the head, or the head having hit a heavy object” during interrogations.
While in custody, Mrs. Kazemi had been interrogated for three days by agents from the office of the Prosecutor, including Mr. Mortazavi, the Police and the Intelligence Ministry, and beaten several times.
Concordant sources told Iran Press Service that Mr. Mohammad Bakhshi, an assistant to the Prosecutor at the prison had beaten the photographer violently, probably fatally immediately after her transfer to Evin.
Mrs. Kazemi’s defence team, led by Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, had confirmed this version during the last hearing of Mr. Mohammad Reza Aqdam Ahmadi, an Intelligence Ministry’s employee accused by the Prosecutor of having hit the photographer.
To Iranian and international indignation, the court acquitted Mr. Ahmadi of charges of “semi-intentional manslaughter”.
The sentence was met with “indignation” in Canada, where the Government said immediately warned it would ratchet up pressure on Iran and called on Tehran to respect international human rights norms and the defence walked out in protest.
"The only suspect in this quasi-intentional murder of Zahra Kazemi was innocent, so there remains only one other option, that the incident leading to the death of the late Kazemi was because of a drop in her blood sugar level caused by her hunger strike, thus making her fall from a standing position and get hurt", the statement said.
On Monday, Mr. Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the official spokesman for the powerless government of Mr. Khatami told reporters that if asked, the Intelligence Ministry could identify the culprit very quickly.
In response, the Tehran Department of Justice described the declaration as “irresponsible and ambiguous comments that have no juridical value and are outside of his competence”.
“Such comments, polluted with political intentions not only leads to bewilder the public mind but also provides food for foreign media and malicious people” the statement said, adding however that in case Mr. Ramezanzadeh or anyone else has a different version, "Tehran province judiciary and the judicial apparatus are ready to review any new reports and documents from any competent body, including the Ministry of Information (Intelligence).
At the same time, the Justice Ministry called on Mr. Ramezanzadeh to show “nationalism and patriotism” by also, “in fairness, address the case of Mr. Keyvan Tabesh, the young Iranian who was beaten up to death by a Canadian policeman who had been acquitted with the same sense of justice as he shows for the case of Mrs. Kazemi”.
On Wednesday, the Defence team for the family of Mrs. Kazemi called on the Judiciary to designate an independent judge outside the Office of the Prosecutor to review the case, insisting that the photographer died because of blows she received during the interrogations.
Stephen Hachemi, the son of the slain photographer urged the Canadian authorities to expel Iran's ambassador to Ottawa in protest over Tehran’s failure to bring the killers of her mother to justice.
"The Iranian ambassador has nothing to do in Canada right now", the young Hachemi told a news conference. "He should be expelled. The embassy should be closed", Hachemi said just before meeting the Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew.
The Iranian ambassador has nothing to do in Canada right now
Canadian officials have said they are considering a range of diplomatic pressure tactics, but haven't indicated that expelling ambassador Mohammad Ali Mousavi is among them.
"We are going to work with our partners across the world, in the European Union and in the United Nations to increase the pressure on Iran", Pettigrew told reporters.
He promised Canada would use the next session of the United Nations General Assembly to review its resolution denouncing Iran's human rights record that was adopted last November.
The 25 members European Union issued a critical statement after the controversial trial of the 41 years old Ahmadi and on Tuesday, the UN special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, on the independence of judges and lawyers, and on torture expressed "their profound concern regarding the unanswered questions" and said Iranian "authorities are favouring a climate of impunity". ENDS KAZEMI DEATH 28704