Canada blast Iran over Kazemi murder
Sep. 22, 2005. 01:00 AM
Pettigrew blasts Iran over Kazemi murder Tehran slowing efforts to render justice, he saysOttawa may call for U.N. decree censuring Iran
OLIVIA WARDSTAFF REPORTERUNITED NATIONS—A frustrated Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew blasted Iran for "dragging its feet" in the case of murdered photojournalist Zahra Kazemi,after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart at the U.N. this week.
And, Pettigrew said, Ottawa is considering a call for a new U.N. resolution against Tehran for violations of human rights.
"That lady was raped, beaten and killed in jail," Pettigrew said, speaking to reporters yesterday about 54-year-old Kazemi, who died after being detained for photographing a demonstration outside a Tehran prison in July 2003.
"Justice must be rendered," the minister said. "They owe it to Mme. Kazemi and they owe it to the international community as well."
Pettigrew spoke to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, winding up several days of meetings and speeches focusing on the world summit, and the opening of the U.N.'s 60th anniversary session of the assembly.
He met Tuesday with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, but without coming any closer to a resolution of Kazemi's fate, who may have been guilty of killing her or of ordering her death.
Iran's recently defeated reformist government has admitted that Kazemi was beaten while in prison. But last summer, a Tehran court acquitted an intelligence agent accused of aiming a fatal blow at her head.
The judiciary had maintained she died in an accidental fall. But allegations of rape and torture later surfaced, raising tensions between Canada and Iran. The Kazemi family's lawyers, supported by Canada, have accused the Iranian judiciary of a whitewash, and the family has appealed the case.
In Tehran Monday, the judiciary reportedly reached a verdict in the appeals process, but has not yet made it public.
Mottaki accused Ottawa of "propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran while the case was transparently taking its course."
But Pettigrew said Tehran was slowing efforts to clear up the case. "This is before the courts," he said in a tone of frustration. "The family has now asked for an appeal. I told the minister yesterday we expected that to take place ... to stop dragging their feet. There will be an appeal — let's have that appeal."
And, Pettigrew added: "I also redirected our demands for repatriating the body of Mrs. Kazemi to Canada, and certainly we expect justice to be done. (But) they gave me the usual lines."
Canada's call for openness in the Kazemi case has been complicated by another incident two years ago, in which Keyvan Tabesh, an 18-year-old Iranian youth, was shot dead by Vancouver police.
A police officer was cleared of wrongdoing by a police investigation, which concluded that Tabesh ran toward the officer brandishing a machete, and ignoring police warnings.
Iran says that the verdict was "released without any transparency (or) trial."
But, said Pettigrew, "the Iranian official line is always to try to make an equivalent comparison (with Kazemi). Whereas you know very well that there's just absolutely no parallel, no equivalency that could ever be drawn."
Canada is now "testing the waters" on a new resolution censuring Iran for its human rights record, which Pettigrew said had not improved over the past year.
For the last two years Ottawa has sponsored non-binding General Assembly resolutions accusing Tehran of rights violations including restriction of free speech, torture and persecution of dissidents. The last vote was passed in December 2004.
In his speech to the General Assembly, earlier, Pettigrew said that Canada was disappointed that "members did not show greater courage" during the recent summit, in creating a new permanent Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission, whose membership is open even to prominent rights violators.
"We need the Council because it will help us take an in-depth look at situations of concern to us, such as Iran," he said.