Reporters Without Borders
"For two years now, Zahra Kazemi's family has been waiting for her body to be
exhumed and repatriated to Canada, and press freedom activists
throughout the world have waiting for justice to be done, but the Iranian
authorities have decided otherwise," the organisation
"The international community must support Canada's initiatives and force Iran to give a full account of the
circumstances of Kazemi's death," Reporters
Without Borders added.
The Canadian government has become very involved. After a sham trial
cleared the leading suspect in July 2004, Canada announced in May this year that
it would restricts its diplomatic relations with Iran until the Kazemi
case is cleared up.
"Instead of justice, the Iranian authorities organise
so-called explanation sessions," the Kazemi
family's lawyer, Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, told Reporters Without Borders. "We, the
lawyers and the family, want a real court to try and convict those
responsible for this murder. The hearing scheduled for 27 July will be
another explanation session, like the one on 16 May. I think those who are
guilty are playing for time."
The Canadian government has proposed that three forensic experts, a
Canadian, an Iranian and a third person appointed jointly by the two
governments, should conduct an autopsy on Kazemi's
body. The Iranian authorities have still not agreed.
There are many other unanswered questions. The identity of some of those
who interrogated Kazemi while she was in custody
has still not been revealed. The records of the interrogations sessions
have been tampered with and the statements of some witnesses have been
Aged 54, Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 as she was photographing the relatives of detainees outside Evin prison in northern Tehran. Beaten while in custody, she
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.
Following an Iranian parliamentary enquiry and strong pressure from Canada and elsewhere in the
international community, the judicial authorities named an intelligence
official who had been one of Kazemi's
interrogators. He was charged with her death but was then acquitted in a
sham trial on 24 July 2004.
When the case came before the Tehran appeal court on 16 May of this
year, the court rushed through the first hearing in one hour. The Kazemi family lawyers said they were not allowed to
speak and the defendant was not present. Journalists were expelled from the
courtroom. The next hearing in the appeal is set for 27 July.