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Posted Saturday, July 24, 2004

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TEHRAN, 24 July (IPS) Mohammad Reza Aqdam Ahmadi, the officer of the Intelligence Ministry accused of “semi-intentional manslaughter” in the case of the Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi was acquitted on Saturday 24 July.

A court that was judging Mr. Ahmadi concluded that he was not responsible for the death of Mrs. Kazemi and therefore the case is over until the real culprit is identified.

Mrs Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 outside Evin prison taking pictures of families of political prisoners. She died on 10 July 2003 in a military hospital run by the Revolutionary Guards of brain injuries received during three days on continued interrogations by agents of the Police, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Intelligence Ministry.

The court that was judging Mr. Ahmadi concluded that he, nor anyone else, was responsible for the death of Mrs. Kazemi.


Iranian authorities initially said the photographer died of a brain stroke, but a ministerial committee named by President Mohammad Khatami later found that she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage from a blow to the head.

The Tehran Prosecutor indicated Mr. Aqdam Ahmadi as the agent who might have dealt the photographer the fatal blow. But the Intelligence Ministry rejected the charges and the accused pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Ahmadi was tried again last week, with the presence of a team of lawyers defending the family of the victim as well as the accused, foreign diplomat, including the Canadian Ambassador to Tehran, his colleague from the Netherlands representing the European Union and representatives from the British and French Embassies and the foreign press.

At the start of the hearings, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who led the four-member legal team, said the court was not competent and the legal proceedings were flawed.

But on the following day, the court, in a surprise decision, barred all foreigners from attending the trial, triggering the walking out of the defence team, threatening to take the matter to international organisations if the Iranian judiciary fails to carry out justice in Kazemi's murder.

“I'll protest this verdict. If the appeals court and other legal stages fail to heed our objections, we will use all domestic and international facilities to meet the legal rights of my client", Mrs. Ebadi said in protest.


From the outset, many experts as well as Iranian and international press had fingered out Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi, the Tehran and Islamic Revolution Tribunals Prosecutor as the main culprit.


"If the court had summoned the people we named during the trial for explanation, it could have accurately identified the people who committed the murder", she further observed.

From the outset, many experts as well as Iranian and international press had fingered out Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi, the Tehran and Islamic Revolution Tribunals Prosecutor as the main culprit.

Mr. Abdofattah Soltani, one of the lawyers for Mfrs. Kazemi’s family has also said that Mr. Mortazavi could be a possible suspect in the case.

The parody of Iranian Islam-based justice in the murder of Mrs. Kazemi was denounced by international organizations and badly affected the usually good relations between Tehran and Ottawa.

Following the expected end of the trial, Canada ordered its ambassador out of Tehran and Canadian press urged the government to expel Iranian diplomats from the country.

Bill Graham, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry said he might take the issue to international court and the United Nations for possible sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

But legal experts doubted Canada could win the case against Iran, since the photographer had entered Iran with her Iranian passport in the one hand and Iran does not recognize double nationality on the other hand.

Journalists in Iran complained that Mortazavi had told them not to report on parts of the trial. Most Iranian newspapers have not published the accusations against Mr. Mohammad Bakhshi, another interrogator the legal team suspects of participation in the beating and the prosecution, apparently fearing retribution.

On closing the case, the court also said that the family of the victim would be compensated from the state’s budget.

Political analysts said the abrupt and dramatic end to the case reflected a sharp conflict among the ruling conservatives, with the hard liners fearing that allowing the trial continue in public would get out of control and lead to leaks about the real culprits.

“They decided that buying international indignation is better than the possible identification of those who caused the murder of an innocent woman, particularly because the real culprit – eventually Mr. Mortazavi, also known as the “Butcher of the press” – is a protégé of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’I, the leader of the Islamic Republic”, one analyst told Iran Press Service. ENDS AHMADI ACQUITTED 24704.


A court judging the murder of Zahra Kazemi decided that no one killed her.


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