Monday, July 10, 2006

Call for Proper Trial in Kazemi Case on Third Anniversary of Her Murder in Custody

Reporters Without Borders:
On the third anniversary of Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi’s death from her injuries after being beaten while in custody in Tehran, Reporters Without Borders today condemned the “total impunity” prevailing in the case and called for a proper trial of all those responsible involved. READ MORE

There has been no progress in this case since the acquittal on 16 November 2005 of Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, the only person ever to be formally accused, and the Kazemi family lawyers have run into a wall of silence from the Iranian judicial authorities,” the press freedom organisation said. We support the lawyers’ demand for a fair and impartial trial to be finally held, one that would establish once and for all the circumstances in which Kazemi died.”

Reporters Without Borders added: Like the Canadian government and others, we were shocked to see Tehran chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who is alleged to have been directly involved in Kazemi’s death, attending the inaugural meeting of the UN human rights council on 19 June in Geneva. His presence there, just a few weeks before the anniversary of her death, was outrageous.”

Mohamad Ali Dadkhah, one of the Kazemi family’s lawyers, told Reporters Without Borders: "After the appeal and its verdict, we were very hopeful that the supreme court would order the reopening of the case. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts, there has been a complete silence until now and our request has produced absolutely no reaction."

A Canadian resident, 54-year-old Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 as she was photographing the relatives of detainees outside Evin prison in north 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. Kazemi’s mother publicly acknowledged that pressure was put on her to authorize the burial. Since then, the requests for the body to be exhumed and repatriated to Canada have been ignored.

Ahmadi, one of the intelligence officers who interrogated Kazemi while she was in custody, 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.

An initial hearing in an appeal against Ahmadi’s acquittal was held in Tehran on 16 May 2005 without Ahmadi attending. Journalists were barred from the courtroom and the Kazemi family lawyers said they are not able to address the court, which adjourned the hearing after just one hour.

The Tehran appeal court issued a ruling on 16 November uphold Ahmadi’s acquittal. But according to his lawyer, and the Kazemi family lawyers, the court at the same time ordered that the case should be sent back to the prosecutor’s office and that the investigation should be reopened.