Iran General NewsOttawa to push Iran on Kazemi case: Pettigrew

Ottawa to push Iran on Kazemi case: Pettigrew

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The Globe and Mail: Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Thursday Ottawa will continue pressing Iran for justice in the wake of shocking new details about the condition of a Montreal photographer days before her death in a jail in that country. “Iran is continuing to not respect the most fundamental human rights, and this must stop,” Mr. Pettigrew told reporters in Toronto.

The Globe and Mail

News Update

By TERRY WEBER

Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said Thursday Ottawa will continue pressing Iran for justice in the wake of shocking new details about the condition of a Montreal photographer days before her death in a jail in that country.

“Iran is continuing to not respect the most fundamental human rights, and this must stop,” Mr. Pettigrew told reporters in Toronto.

“This new evidence only strengthens our position and confirms that this was not an accident. It does not change our position. Quite the contrary. The family wants answers. Canadians want answers, and we will be pursuing this until justice is done.”

Earlier Thursday, Sharham Azam, a former doctor with the Iranian Minister of Defence, detailed the injuries suffered by 54-year-old Zahra Kazemi just days before her death in June, 2003.

He said catalogued countless injuries on the woman, who arrived at the hospital unconscious. He said the broken bones, bruising and marks suggested she had been beaten, tortured and raped, with the wounds suggested the assaults had taken place over a period of time.

“We believe the Iranian justice system has failed all across the line,” Mr. Pettigrew said.

The 54-year-old photojournalist died on July 10, 2003 in Tehran. An Iranian-born photographer who also had Canadian citizenship, she was beaten to death after being arrested for taking photos of protesters outside a Tehran prison.

The Canadian government was frustrated by efforts by the country’s hard-line judiciary to censor news accounts of the trial of an intelligence officer accused of killing the Montreal woman.

Although the trial was initially open to then-Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon and other foreign observers, they were eventually not allowed in.

The Iranian judiciary later said the Montreal photographer died when she fell on the ground and hit her head, and a Tehran court acquitted the intelligence agent.

But, during Thursday’s news conference, Shahram Azam, a former physician with the Iranian Department of Defence, confirmed details reported in The Globe and Mail, which offered evidence that Ms. Kazemi had been brutally tortured, beaten and raped before her death.

The new details in the case also prompted renewed calls from critics for immediate government action on the latest revelations, including the withdrawal of Canada’s ambassador to Iran.

“The federal government must acknowledge that its strategy of soft diplomacy towards the brutish Iranian regime has been an utter failure,” Conservative Foreign Affairs Critic Stockwell Day said.

Mr. Day urged Ottawa to pull Canada’s ambassador to Iran, demand the return of Ms. Kazemi’s body to her family and agree to a new trial, with an international presence involved in the proceedings.

Mr. Pettigrew said Ottawa has brought the issue before the United Nations general assembly and continues to press Iran for action at every opportunity. He also said Privy Council representatives are now meeting with lawyers for Ms. Kazemi’s family to discuss the next step.

“We not excluding any particular option at all,” Mr. Pettigrew said.

In Ottawa, Ms. Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, also vowed to continue the fight for justice.

“It’s hard to describe what I feel and I refuse to just go down on my emotions and cry,” Mr. Hachemi told reporters.

“But, I have the same attitude that I’ve always had which is to proceed aggressively in this case to get justice for my mother and to make an example of this case to make sure we have rights as Canadians.”

Mr. Hachemi also said he was grateful for the relative speed that the Canadian government acted on allowing Dr. Azam to come to Canada, but said he was frustrated with Ottawa’s overall progress on the case.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s not a personal matter. It’s a national matter, an international matter.”

In graphic detail, Dr. Azam outlined scores of injuries he observed on Ms. Kazemi, who had been brought to Tehran’s Baghiattulah hospital early on the morning of June 27, 2003.

Dr. Azam’s observations are the first from a medical eyewitness in the case.

“As a doctor I could see this was torture,” Dr. Azam, who fled Iran and has been granted landed immigrant status in Canada, told reporters.

He said Ms. Kazemi was battered from head to foot, with markings consistent with flogging on a number of areas of her body.

Her nose had been broken so badly that a nurse was unable to insert a tube when the unconscious woman was brought in. A vaginal exam carried out by a nurse — doctors in military hospitals in Iran are not allowed to carry out the procedure — showed massive bruising in the genital area, offering evidence of a brutal rape.

“It was the first time I saw a patient brought in from a prison,” Dr. Azam said. “It was so shocking for me.”

Last July, Canada withdrew its ambassador to Iran over Ottawa’s frustration with the Iranian justice system’s handling of the case. A new ambassador — Gordon Venner — was appointed in November.

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