Sunday, November 20, 2005

Reporters Without Borders Calls for Zahra Kazemi murder case to be reopened

Reporters Without Borders Calls for Zahra Kazemi murder case to be reopened
Reporters Without Borders today called for the reopening of the investigation into the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi after a Tehran appeal court on 16 November upheld the acquittal of Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, the only person accused of killing her while she was in the custody of the Tehran authorities in 2003.
Lawyers for the family of the victim, who had Iranian and Canadian dual nationality, have also expressed their desire for the case to be reopened while, according to Ahmadi's lawyer, the appeal court ordered that the case be sent back to the prosecutor's office.
"This terrible case must not be shelved following the acquittal of Ahmadi, who was just a scapegoat," Reporters Without Borders said. "We are relieved to hear that the judicial authorities are now officially supposed to reopen the case, but we fear that it will be re-assigned to Tehran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who is suspected of being personally involved in Kazemi's death."
The press freedom organisation continued : "For this reason, we support the request of the Kazemi family's lawyers who are demanding that the case be investigated by an independent judge who has no connection with the prosecutor's office. We also insist on the need for a fair trial that clarifies once and for all how Zahra Kazemi died while in the custody of the Iranian authorities."
Reporters Without Borders added : "Until now, there has been no response to her family's requests for the past two years for her body to be exhumed and repatriated to Canada. While we wait for the Iranian authorities to finally grant this request, it is essential that all those involved in this premeditated murder are identified, tried and punished."
Ahmadi, who was one of the intelligence officers who interrogated Kazemi while she was in custody, is widely regarded as having been chosen as a scapegoat by the ultra-conservative judicial authorities. He was charged with her death following international pressure and an investigation by the Iranian parliament, but he was acquitted in a sham trial on 24 July 2004.
Charges were dropped against other suspects, who were not subject to any further investigation thereafter. But that could change if the case were reopened.
Usually resident in Canada, 54-year-old Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 as she was photographing the relatives of detainees outside Evin prison in northern Tehran. She was beaten while in custody and died of her injuries on 10 July 2003.
After trying to cover up what happened, the Iranian authorities issued a report on 20 July 2003 recognising that Kazemi's death was the result of violence. But the report failed to explain how the blow that caused her death was inflicted. Only an autopsy could now clear this up. Against the wishes of her son, Stephan Hachemi, who has French and Canadian nationality and lives in Canada, Kazemi's body was hastily buried on 22 July 2003 in Shiraz, in southern Iran. Her mother publicly acknowledged that pressure was put on her to authorize the burial. Since then, Canada's requests for the body to be exhumed and repatriated to Canada have been ignored.

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