Judiciary continues to stall in Kazemi case, two years after her death    Fri. 8 Jul 2005


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 said.

"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 ignored.

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.