Monday, July 10, 2006

Civil suit launched against Iran in Kazemi death News:
Stephan Hachemi has launched a civil suit against the Iranian government and a handful of specific individuals, three years after his mother died of injuries suffered while in their custody.

Frustrated that the Canadian government has not taken the case to The International Court of Justice, Hachemi told CTV Newsnet Monday, "the Canadian government has refused to confront Iran."

Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, was arrested and imprisoned in 2003 after taking photos at a protest held outside a prison near Tehran by families of detained youths.

A commission appointed by Iran's president found Kazemi died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage that resulted from a blow to the head with a blunt object.

Iranian authorities initially claimed that she had suffered a stroke. They hastily buried her in southern Iran. The Iranian government has refused the family's requests to exhume Kazemi's body for burial in Canada.

Iranian intelligence agent, Reza Aghdam Ahmadi in July 2004 was the only person charged with Kazemi's death. A court acquitted Ahmadi in what observers called a sham trial.

Hachemi says the civil lawsuit filed in Quebec is the "one recourse that we have. We were blocked. We were not allowed to take another avenue."

Hachemi's case brings charges against:

* Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran
* Saeed Mortazavi, Chief Public Prosecutor for Tehran
* Mohammad Bakhshi, former Iranian Deputy Chief of Intelligence for Evin Prison

In a civil case, it's left to the accused to answer to the charges.

If they fail to answer to the accusations, the case will be decided by an enforceable, default judgment, Kazemi family lawyer John Terry told CTV Newsnet.

The family eventually wants to see criminal charges brought against the prosecutor. "If Canada really wants to do something very forceful with a strong impact, pursuing [Mortazavi] would be the strongest approach," Terry said. READ MORE

Mortazavi, chief public prosecutor for Tehran, was responsible for putting Kazemi in jail.

"It's not just that he was in charge of the prison or ordered her interrogation, he was right there, the evidence would suggest," Terry said.

"We really want to see Mortazavi, the prosecutor general, put behind bars. And we've got an opportunity here for Canada to make a very strong statement to the world that it both this event seriously and it takes seriously the role of bringing torturers and those who are involved in human rights abuses to justice," Terry said.

Terry wants the Canadian government to pursue the case in front of the International Court of Justice and that they will continue their efforts to speak out against the incident.

Terry noted that when Mortazavi "was a part of the Iranian delegation to the UN human rights delegation, Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter MacKay called his presence there 'disgusting' and the Prime Minister called on Swiss and German authorities to arrest him."

Terry and Kazemi's family want to continue a dialogue that began with the previous liberal government.

"We essentially want the RCMP to open a file and begin to gather evidence so that Mr. Mortazavi can be prosecuted and extradited."

The case is an opportunity to see justice done, and bring Kazemi's body back home, Terry said.