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A Time Line of Zahra Kazemi's Life: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/kazemi/

Zahra Kazemi From Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Zahra "Ziba" Kazemi-Ahmadabadi (1949 - July 11, 2003) was an Iranian-born freelance photographer, residing in Montreal (Canada), who was killed by Iranian officials during an interrogation following her arrest in her native country.

Born in Shiraz, Kazemi moved to France in 1974 to study literature and cinema at the University of Paris. With her son, Kazemi, she immigrated to Quebec, Canada in 1993, where she later gained dual citizenship as an Iranian and Canadian national. She worked in Africa, Latin-America and the Caribbean and then more frequently in various middle-eastern countries, including Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. She visited the latter two countries both prior and during the US occupation. Immediately prior to her travelling to Iran, Kazemi had revisited Iraq, documenting the American occupation. Recurrent themes in her work were the documentation of poverty, destitution, forced exile and oppression, but also the strength of women in these situations.

Travelling back to her birth country using her Iranian passport, Kazemi was allowed into Iran to take photographs of the possible demonstrations that were expected to take place in Tehran in July, 2003. However, on June 23, 2003, she was arrested in front of the Evin prison where photography is prohibited. The Evin prison staff, who the Kazemi's family lawyers consider a party in the beatings that led to Kazemi's death, say that she had been in a sensitive area, photographing parts of the prison, even though she insisted that she had not photographed any part of the prison, but only the street and the demonstrators -who were family members of activist students jailed in the prison.

Nineteen days later, she died in Iranian custody in Baghiyyatollah al-Azam Military Hospital. It is widely believed she was beaten to death; after initial denials, Iranian government sources (including Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Vice President of Legal Affairs and Masoud Pezeshkian, the Minister of Health and Medical Education) later admitted that she had died of a fractured skull as a result of being hit in the head. Abtahi claims that he was under a lot of pressure to take back the acknowlegement, but he resisted it.

Her death and the subsequent burial in Iran sparked a sharp diplomatic response from Canada, which insisted that her body be returned to her Canadian son, Stephan Hachemi. The Iranian government claimed the burial had happened in Iran following the wishes of Kazemi's mother (who later claimed in court that she was pushed into it). Her death also raised concerns from international human rights and free speech groups such as Reporters Without Borders, concerned over the fate of journalists in Iran. As of August 2003, ten journalists are currentlyin custody in Iran, and 85 newspapers have been shut down since April, 2000.

One of the two Iranian intelligence agents charged with her death was acquitted in September, 2003. The other agent, Mohammed Reza Aghdam-Ahmadi, was charged with "semi-intentional murder" and his trial opened in Tehran in October, 2003. In the same month, the Iranian parliament condemned Saeed Mortazavi, a Tehran prosecutor, for announcing that Kazemi had died of a stroke.

The Trial

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and former judge who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, is now the main representative of Kazemi's family at the trial, and has represented them at the second and third sessions of Aghdam-Ahmadi's trial, which took place on July 17 and July 18, 2004. In the court, Kazemi's mother mentioned that she wanted the real murderer to be prosecuted. She also mentioned that she saw Kazemi's body before the burial, upon which there were signs of torture.

Ebadi and the other lawyers of the family insisted in the court that they know that Kazemi was not killed by Aghdam-Ahmadi, and they need witnesses to be brought to the court in order to find the real murderer, who they guessed may be Mohammad Bakhshi, a high officer of the Evin prison. The list of witnesses included Saeed Mortazavi, the general prosecutor of Tehran Mohsen Armin, reformist member of the previous parliament Hossein Ansari-Rad, Jamileh Kadivar, and Mohsen Mirdamadi, Minister of Intelligence Ali Younesi, the Vice President of Legal Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi , Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ahmad Masjedjamei, the five judges who were present during Kazemi's interrogation, a few employees of the Evin prison, the president of the Baghiyyatollah hospital, and all of the medical staff who had signed her file. Judge Farahani denied all of the requests. The lawyers also quoted the official report of death that various of parts of Kazemi's body had been damaged and her clothes were torn and bloody, which proves that she had been tortured.

On July 14, 2004, the Iranian government rejected requests for Canadian government observers to attend the trial, despite promises and assurances by the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and judiciary officials to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bill Graham. The same day, Graham recalled the ambassador at Tehran, Philip MacKinnon. But later, MacKinnon, together with the Dutch ambassador (representing the European Union) and diplomats from the British and French embassies, were allowed to attend the July 17 trial, though not the July 18 one. The Judge Farahani was quoted on July 18 as saying that "(he) made a mistake yesterday. The bar is to show the world that Iran won't bow under pressure." Hamid Reza Assefi, the spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said "We hadn't permitted an observer from the beginning. But you should ask the reason for the ban from the court, there may had been a shortage of seats." Assefi also told that since Kazemi was an Iranian citizen and had entered the country with an Iranian passport, never having asked for her citizenship status to be removed, and the Iranian legislation doesn't recognize double nationalities, the case was clearly an internal affair, and the Canadian representativeness sensless.

The trial sessions ended on July 18, with the lawyers of the Kazemi family insisting that the time had not been enough for proofs to be given, witnesses to be brought to court, and the murderer to be identified. They also mentioned that the court didn't pay attention to their evidence. They refused to sign the session notes. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham, defined these events as "flagrant denial of due process".

On July 24, Judge Farahani issued his judgement, clearing Aghdam-Ahmadi of the charges. He also mentioned that since the murderer has not been found, according to the Islamic sources the blood money should be paid by the government to the family. The lawyers of Kazemi's family announced that they will definitely appeal the case, asking for a criminal court to be established to reconsider the whole case, or completing the numerous incompletenesses of the file. They also mentioned that if the family asks, they will bring the case to the international authorities, mentioning Iran's 1954 signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The new Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pierre Pettigrew is still demanding the truth about the death of Zahra Kazemi. On July 25, he asserted that the Canadian government continues to insist that justice be done and the process to be both transparent and credible.

The end of July saw the Iran's judiciary adding "accidental fall" and "hunger strike" on the list of posible causes for Zahra Kazemi death while in custody in Tehran.

Timeline of Events Following Her Death, July-August 2003

  • July 13, 2003 - IRNA, Iran's official news agency reports that Kazemi "suffered a stroke when she was subject to interrogation and died in hospital." The same day, under pressure from Canada, Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami, orders an assembly of five ministers to investigate into her death.
  • July 16, 2003 - Iran admits beating killed Kazemi.
  • July 20, 2003 - IRNA reports that Kazemi died from a fractured skull caused by "a physical attack."
  • July 21, 2003 - Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi is appointed by Iran to head an independent investigative group to look into her death. This appointment is immediately fiercely attacked by pro-reformist Iranian MPs, as Mortazavi had himself been accused of failing to prevent Kazemi's death, and was widely believed to be behind a recent wave of arrests of writers and journalists. Given this controversy, the investigation appeared unlikely to mollify a Canada growing increasingly impatient with Iran's unwillingness to "clearly demonstrate that officials are not allowed to act with impunity" (Foreign Minister Bill Graham, news conference).
  • July 23, 2003 - Kazemi's body is buried in her hometown of Shiraz in Iran, supposedly according to the wishes of her mother (Ezzat Kazemi) and relatives in Iran, but contrary to the wishes of her son (Stephan Hachemi, who resides in Montreal), and Canadian officials. Consequently, Canada recalls its ambassador to Iran until further notice, and discusses the possibility of sanctions against Iran. (Her mother later claimed that she had been put under pressure.)
  • July 25, 2003 - Iranian Foreign Minister echos the words of Canadian officials almost word for word for Ottawa in reference to the death of an 18-year-old Iranian citizen in Vancouver, Canada, at the hands of undercover Canadian police which occurred around the same time as Ms. Kazemi's death. He demands that Canadian officials "clearly demonstrate that officials in Canada are not allowed to act with impunity, ... [and] The Islamic republic will seek through diplomatic channels clear and convincing explanations of this crime," he said.
  • July 26, 2003 - Iran announces that it has arrested five members of its security services in connection with the investigation, but gives no further details.
  • July 30, 2003 - Iran's vice-president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi tells that Kazemi was probably murdered by government agents.
  • August 25, 2003 - Two Iranian intelligence agents who had interrogated Kazemi are charged with complicity in her death. The Teheran prosecutor's office releases a statement reading in part, "The charges levelled against the interrogators, who are said to be members of the Intelligence Ministry, are announced as complicity in semi-intentional murder."

Kazemi's son upset with Canada's response to Iran

Stephan Hachemi

CTV.ca News
July 26, 2004

The son of Zahra Kazemi has harsh words for the Canadian government, which has said it is reviewing what action to take now that Iran 's judiciary has ended the murder investigation.

"We have been humiliated, we have been toyed around, we have been insulted," Stephan Hachemi told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.

"And the only thing they are going to say, 'Oh I hope the Iranian justice will have the courage to act,'" he said.

"Well, it is Canada who should have the courage to act."

On Saturday, the Iran judiciary acquitted Mohammad Reza Aqdam, the intelligence agent accused of killing Kazemi. Aqdam was widely believed to be a scapegoat in Kazemi's death while the real killers remain uncharged.

In response, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew demanded that Iran renew its investigation into Kazemi's death.

"This trial has done nothing to answer the real questions about how Zahra Kazemi died or to bring the perpetrators of her murder to justice," Pettigrew said in a statement released Sunday.

"The protracted process and the utter lack of resolution can only be frustrating and painful for her family."

Canada has already withdrawn its ambassador from Iran in the dispute, and is looking at further action. But Pettigrew was not specific about what that action might be.

"I hope that the Iranian judiciary will have the courage to act," Pettigrew said.

Kazemi was arrested last year while taking pictures of a protest outside a prison in Tehran . She died in prison as a result of a beating to the head.

On Monday, Iran 's reformist government volunteered to help the hardline judiciary find out who killed the Canadian journalist.

It's unlikely the judiciary will extend the investigation. It has already signalled its willingness to wrap up the Kazemi case with the offer of traditional" blood money. Kazemi's son has already said he will never accept the money.

"Of course we have to reject this insulting blood money," Hachemi said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi -- who is representing Kazemi's family -- insists the legal battle isn't over. She vows to take the case to international courts and to the United Nations.


Iran faced with threats of world court, sanctions over Kazemi verdict


July 25, 2004

TEHRAN , July 25 (AFP) - Iran was Sunday threatened with international legal proceedings and possible Canadian sanctions after its hardline judiciary acquitted the sole defendant accused of the killing in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi.

The Iranian judiciary said the intelligence agent who stood trial for the murder had been found not guilty due to "lack of proof" and declared itself unable to find the real killer.

In the absence of a guilty verdict, the Iranian government was been ordered to pay "blood money" to Kazemi's family. Blood money in Iran for a woman -- half that for a man -- currently amounts to 120 million rials, or around 13,700 dollars.

"The investigation was flawed and the court overlooked these," complained Nobel Peace Prize winner and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who has been representing Kazemi's enraged family.

"I will follow the case until my last breath," she told AFP."I hope this case, with a fair trial, is solved in Iran . But if it is not,
since human rights is a universal issue ... I will use all international options in order to see justice done."

She said her legal team would be appealing the verdict, in the hope of widening the probe.The judiciary has been accused of trying an innocent man to cover up for one of its own senior officials.

Kazemi, a 54-year-old freelance photographer with dual nationality, died in July 2003 from a brain haemorrhage, the result of a blow to her skull inflicted while she was being interrogated.

She had been arrested for taking photos outside Tehran 's notorious Evin prison, at the time packed with protesters who took part in last summer's wave of anti-regime demonstrations.

Iran 's judiciary abruptly closed the trial a week ago.Its decision to bar Canadian diplomats from the last day of the hearings
prompted Ottawa to recall its ambassador to the Islamic republic, and the latest verdict means more diplomatic fallout can be expected.

"This is very distasteful. The Canadian government is reviewing its options, but the general view is one way or another, Iran should be sanctioned," a senior Canadian foreign ministry official said.

The source, who asked not to be named, said a possible step could include a permanent downgrading of relations with Iran .
The official Canadian foreign ministry spokesman said Ottawa was withholding its formal reaction "for the time being", having not yet been officially informed of the verdict.

The outcome of the trial was nevertheless a relief for the agent put on trial for "semi-intentional murder", 42-year-old Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi.

He had claimed he was a scapegoat and a victim of Iran 's complex internal rivalries.The intelligence ministry is seen as being closer to the reformist government of President Mohammad Khatami and frequently at odds with the hardline courts.

Kazemi's son Stephen Hachemi, speaking in Canada and quoted by the BBC, also branded the trial a "cover-up"."They're not ready to implicate Iranian officials. I have only three letters -- ICJ -- the International Court of Justice," he warned.

The verdict is just the latest twist in the controversial case, seen as a key test of Iran 's willingness to tackle what human rights groups allege is the widespread use of torture in its prison system.

The judiciary had initially claimed Kazemi died of a stroke, but a government report later revealed she had been struck by a blunt object.

Between her arrest and her admission to hospital, she spent several days being shuttled between the custody of judicial prosecutors, the police and the intelligence ministry.

A probe by reformist deputies accused Tehran 's hardline public prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, of manipulating evidence and pressuring witnesses.

In court last week, Ebadi's team alleged that the real killer could have been Mohammad Bakhshi, a senior justice official working in Evin prison.

Kazemi's mother also told the court that her daughter had been tortured, and said she was pressured into burying the photographer at her birthplace in southern Iran under duress in order to deny Canada the opportunity to carry out its own autopsy.

Iran , which refuses to recognise dual nationality, said Canada had no business observing the trial and said Kazemi's case was a "domestic affair".

On various occasions, it has also accused Canada of being "absurd" and "racist".


The son of slain Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi demanded that Iran accept Canadian demands for an open trial of an intelligence agent accused of killing her.(AFP/File/Behrouz Mehri)



On July 24, 2003, Zahra Kazemi, a photojournalist from Canada was arrested for taking pictures of the families of student protestors being held in Evin prison in Tehran, Iran.

The Iranian regime accused her of being a spy and Kazemi was then taken to Tehran 's Intelligence Ministry where she was tortured, beaten and killed.

Initially the Iranian regime claimed her death was the result of a stroke and tried to close the case. Due to international pressure surrounding the case they admitted she died from a brain hemorrhage caused by the beatings and agreed to hold a trial.

The Iranian government hastily buried her body in her birth town of Shiraz on July 22 nd against the will of her son and her mother who says she was pressured into allowing the burial. Even after numerous demands by Canadian officials and the demands of Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, the Iranian government still refuses send over her body, out of fear that the Canadian health officials may carry out their own autopsy to find the true cause of Zahra Kazemi's death.

The Iranian government handed the case over to the Tehran Criminal Court for investigation. An agent of the Intelligence Ministry, Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi has been charged with Kazemi's “pseudo-intentional murder.”

Shirin Ebadi and a team of lawyers are representing the Kazemi family. The first court hearing was held on October 2, 2003 and now after a nine month delay the second court began on Saturday July 17, 2004 . Iran declared that it would not allow any diplomats or journalists to attend the court hearings, including Canadian ambassador Phillip MacKinnon. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bill Graham, outraged at the Iranian courts decision, called for the removal of their ambassador. Due to the Canadian government's reaction, the Iranian courts quickly changed their decision, and stated that they would allow Ambassador Phillip Mackinnon to attend the trial on Saturday. According to the AFP, “During Sunday's court session, Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon, Dutch ambassador Hein de Vries as well as senior French and British diplomats were bluntly told to stay out”.

The group of lawyers defending Zahra Kazemi's family said in court on Saturday that Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi is not the main suspect, and according to witnesses Kazemi was struck on the head by a senior judicial officer after being arrested at Evin Prison. “After being struck, she fell and after that she could not walk,” the court was told. The judge ignored the evidence presented by Ebadi and her team of lawyers, and then ended the trial without saying when they would present the verdict.

The angry lawyers stormed out of the courtroom with Shirin Ebadi saying, "We will use all legal methods to restore the rights of our client," she said. "We will continue until our last breath." A tearful Ezzat Kazemi claimed her daughter had been tortured to death. She told the courts, "There were burns on my daughter's chest, and her fingers and nose and toes were broken."

At a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday July, 14th Stephan Hachemi said there would not be any justice for his mother in an Iranian court, and made the following comments about the court officials; "They are criminals from A to Z. The judge in this case is under the chief prosecutor, who is directly responsible for this murder.”

On July 24, 2004 , the court presented its verdict and acquitted Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi. News of Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi's acquittal came as no surprise to Hachemi. "The only justice we have come to expect from Iran is injustice," he said. He was also quoted stating, "By acquitting this guy and paying some blood money they say the case is over … but it's clearly a cover-up. They're not ready to implicate Iranian officials. I have only three letters - ICJ - the International Court of Justice.”

Stephan Hachemi also stated "It's fair to say that Iran has toyed with Canada ," Hachemi told CBC Newsworld on Sunday. "It's fair to say that Canada has failed to send a clear message to Iran that there will be consequences for their actions."

As Stephan Hachemi stated “The only justice we have come to expect from Iran is injustice”, the Kazemi case, was a case in the eye of the media, yet the Iranian regime did not allow justice to prevail in this court. The beating and imprisonment of journalists have turned into a regular event in the only theocracy in the world today. Iran even has a special "press court" to hand out such punishments. One can just imagine what the Iranian regime has done with hundreds of thousands of prisoners in the dungeons of Iranian prisons where execution verdicts are issued within five minutes and without a trial. Kazemi tried to enlighten society of the hardships people are faced with in different areas of the world through her photography, but one of her greatest services to society was enlightening the world of the atrocities the people of Iran have been faced with for over a quarter of a century, a service she paid for by sacrificing her everything. The Iranian regime killed Zahra Kazemi in cold blood in efforts to silence her, but now her voice has been heard around the world and has become part of history.

The Kazemi case is yet another example of overconfidence from Tehran .




Toronto Star

`Painful' day as mother's death recalled
Zahra Kazemi's son still seeks answers

Has no faith in upcoming Iranian trial

July 10, 2004

MONTREAL—As she snapped pictures outside the walls of Tehran's dreaded Evin prison last summer, Zahra Kazemi was living her dream: taking her camera where others would not, capturing the terror, pain and injustice of people living in an Islamic police state.

But the 54-year-old photojournalist never got a chance to bring those photographs back from Iran to her home in Montreal .

"This was the murder of my mother," says her son, Stephan Hachemi, who has been fighting to find out who was behind Kazemi's death. "I want the Canadian government to help us fight for justice."

A little more than a year ago, under circumstances yet to be fully explained, Kazemi was arrested outside the prison's walls.

After 77 hours in the hands of police interrogators, she was brought to a Tehran hospital's intensive care unit in a coma from what her police interrogators claimed was an aneurysm or stroke.

On July 10, 2003 , she was declared dead from what an Iranian government report would later, under intense pressure from Canada to investigate, determine to be a skull fracture and other injuries likely inflicted from a brutal beating while in the custody of Iran 's security services.

Yesterday, Kazemi's son and friends held a commemoration of her life. They want Ottawa and other governments to not overlook the case.

"This trial (which begins next Saturday in Iran ) will really be a masquerade," predicted Hachemi, who has set up a foundation in his mother's name. "They're putting someone on trial for what they have called non-intentional murder. But he's a scapegoat. There are others involved. This is a case of torture, of illegal imprisonment."

Once a promising, though little known, freelance photographer, Kazemi was an Iranian who arrived in Montreal in 1993, became a Canadian citizen and set out to make her journalistic mark by photographing the plight of women and children from Iran to Afghanistan.

Her plan was to draw attention to underdogs in the developing world, never herself. But her death has become an international incident, roiling relations between Tehran and Ottawa .

Canada briefly pulled its ambassador out in protest, backing away from plans to liberalize relations with Iran , where reformers were seen as on the rise after years of Islamic hardline rule. In response, Iran 's government accused Canada of a human rights violation of Keyvan Tabesh, an Iranian Canadian teenager who was shot to death by a Vancouver-area police officer who caught him vandalizing a car.

An investigation later found that the teenager wielded a machete and cleared the officer. International groups have also taken up the Kazemi case. "We suspect that the senior Iranian official implicated in this murder will remain unpunished and that a scapegoat will be convicted in order to put an end to a case that is embarrassing for the regime," said a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders.

Shirin Ebadi, who in 2003 became the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has agreed to take on the case. But the Paris-based group questions the kind of rights she will be granted in the Iranian courtroom.

The Canadian government, which calls Kazemi's case "a horrible murder," says it has been rebuffed in attempts to have observers at the upcoming trial.

Hachemi is losing faith in Ottawa 's ability to bring about justice. Last night, he saidtoday was a "painful date." "I've been asking to get my mother's body back from Iran , to have an autopsy," he said in an interview.

"So far none of that has happened. You have to look at the results from the Canadian government. A year later, it's not too much progress, is it?"


Iran court issues acquittal in murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi

Ali Akbar Dareini

Canadian Press
Saturday, July 24, 2004


Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who's leading a four-member legal team for the mother of Zahra Kazemi, threatened to take the matter to international organizations if the Iranian judiciary fails to carry out justice in Kazemi's murder. (AP/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

TEHRAN, Iran (CP) - A court has acquitted the defendant in the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, a case which has severely threatened diplomatic ties between Canada and Iran, the chief lawyer for the slain woman's mother said Saturday.

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.

"I'm required to work until my last breath to make sure that justice is done to my client," Ebadi said.

She threatened to take the matter to international organizations 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," an angry Ebadi said.

The intelligence agent charged with killing Kazemi, counterespionage expert Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, pleaded not guilty during trial. He was the only person implicated by the judiciary in what is called Kazemi's "semi-premeditated murder."

Kazemi, a Montreal-based Canadian freelance journalist of Iranian origin, died July 10, 2003 , while in detention for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests against the government.

Iranian authorities initially said Kazemi died of a stroke but a presidential committee later found that she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage from a blow to the head.

After the court initially barred foreign observers last week, several, including Canadian Ambassador Philip MacKinnon and other diplomats, were allowed to attended the session.

But last Sunday they were blocked from entering the courtroom and the trial was abruptly ended, prompting Ebadi and her team to walk out of the court building in protest.

Ebadi accused the court Saturday of deliberately failing to carry out justice.

"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 said.

Ebadi's team had angered hardliners by accusing prison official Mohammad Bakhshi of inflicting the fatal blow to Kazemi and the conservative judiciary of illegally detaining her.

Ebadi refused to sign the bill of indictment - which implicated Ahmadi and cleared Bakhshi of any wrongdoing - and demanded that the court summon several top officials, including hardline Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, to explain Kazemi's murder.

Ebadi said filing a case against Bakhshi still remained an option before she would turn to international organizations.

Abdolfattah Soltani, who is on Ebadi's team, said he didn't understand why the judiciary would not punish those responsible for the crime.

"Simply I can't understand why the judiciary is trying to hide the truth and not punish those who committed the crime. It's not comprehensible why Iran should be discredited in the world for a few people who committed murder," he said.

Soltani has said Mortazavi could be a possible suspect in the case.

The Canadian government has blamed Mortazavi for the death, and Iranian reformists have accused him of a coverup.

Last week, journalists complained that Mortazavi had told them not to report on parts of the trial. Most Iranian newspapers have not published the accusations against Bakhshi and the prosecution, apparently fearing retribution.

Iranian-Canadian relations, soured by the slaying and subsequent burial in Iran against the wishes of Kazemi's son in Montreal , further deteriorated after Iran rejected the idea of Canadian observers attending the trial. Relations were further strained when MacKinnon was not allowed to attend the last session of the open trial last Sunday.

Ebadi said the court ruled that Iran would give compensation to Kazemi's family.

The average compensation now paid to relatives of a Muslim man killed is about $18,750 US ($24,800 Cdn). The payment is about half that if the victim was Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian or a woman, regardless of her religion.


Kazemi son rejects Iranian 'blood money'


July 25, 2004

MONTREAL - The son of a Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who was beaten to death while in Iranian custody says he rejects the "blood money" Tehran has offered as compensation for his mother's murder.

After acquitting an intelligence agent in Zahra Kazemi's death on Saturday, an Iranian court also ordered the payment.

"By acquitting this guy and paying some blood money they say the case is over ... but it's clearly a coverup," said her son, 26-year-old Stephan Hachemi, speaking from Montreal .

Zahra Kazemi

Under Iranian law, compensation for families of murder victims is set at $24,000 if the victim is a man, and about half that for a woman.

The money comes from an individual if that person is convicted; the government pays if no one is found responsible.

Hachemi says he'll reject any financial settlement. He and his family's lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, have both said they want to take the case before the International Court of Justice.

"Clearly any sort of payment like that is absolutely and completely out of any proportion to the loss that's occurred," said Hachemi's lawyer, John Terry.

News of Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi's acquittal came as no surprise to Hachemi. "The only justice we have come to expect from Iran is injustice," he said.

In the runup to Ahmadi's trial and during the proceedings, Canada twice recalled ambassador Philip MacKinnon in a bid to force Iran to allow the presence of foreign observers.

Despite the protest, the court wrapped up the case, after only three days of hearings.

"It's fair to say that Iran has toyed with Canada ," Hachemi told CBC Newsworld on Sunday. "It's fair to say that Canada has failed to send a clear message to Iran that there will be consequences for their actions."

Kazemi, 54, was beaten on the head during three days of interrogation by Iranian authorities, who had arrested her for taking photographs outside a prison in Tehran last year.

Written by CBC News Online staff


Family dismay at Iran 'cover-up'


July 25, 2004

The family of an Iranian-Canadian photographer killed in Iran say Ottawa should pursue Iran for justice, after an agent was cleared of her killing.

Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi was cleared of killing photographer Zahra Kazemi, who died in custody in Iran last year.

Zahra Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi said the trial was a "cover-up" to divert attention from the real killer.

Mr Hachemi and his supporters are urging Canada to bring Iran before the international court in The Hague .

Mrs Kazemi was arrested last June after taking pictures outside a prison in the capital, Tehran .

She died in hospital in Tehran on 10 July after falling into a coma, having received head injuries during more than three days of interrogation.

'Semi-intentional murder'

Ms Kazemi's family has previously said a high-ranking official of the justice department struck the fatal blow, and that the court was putting someone else on trial to protect the real killer.

Iran refused to allow Canadian diplomats to attend the closed-door hearing where Mr Ahmadi was accused of "semi-intentional murder".

The BBC's Miranda Eeles in Tehran says lawyers acting for the Kazemi family say they now have 20 days to appeal.

They are calling for the judiciary to appoint a new investigator to look into the case and for the trial to take place at a provincial court, our correspondent says.

Mr Hachemi said: "It's a cover-up. They're not ready to implicate Iranian officials. I have only three letters - ICJ - the International Court of Justice."

Blood money

The BBC's Lee Carter, in Toronto , says there has been very little official Canadian government reaction to the court ruling - it says it wants to study the verdict further.

The case soured relations between Iran and Canada and Ottawa recalled its ambassador in protest.

The case also deepened the rift between Iran 's reformist government and the hardline judiciary, with both sides accusing the other of a cover-up.

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami said he believed Mr Ahmadi was innocent and called on the judiciary to identify "the real guilty person".

Irna news agency quoted a Justice Department source as saying Ms Kazemi's blood money - a sum given to the family of the victim by the murderer - will be paid for by the state treasury.

Lawyers for the family said the family would reject financial compensation if Iran offered any.



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