The Globe and Mail: Iran’s judicial authorities have formally rejected Ottawa’s renewed request for a forensic examination of Zahra Kazemi’s remains, saying her dual citizenship makes any Canadian claims spurious. The Globe and Mail
Iranian judiciary able to carry out the investigation, Tehran tells Ottawa
By MICHAEL DEN TANDT
With a report from Associated Press
OTTAWA – Iran’s judicial authorities have formally rejected Ottawa’s renewed request for a forensic examination of Zahra Kazemi’s remains, saying her dual citizenship makes any Canadian claims spurious.
“Such a demand does not conform with Iranian laws or international regulations,” Jamal Karimirad, a spokesman for Iran’s judges, said in Tehran yesterday.
“[Zahra”> Kazemi was an Iranian citizen. Although she also had Canadian nationality, under Iran’s laws, an additional citizenship doesn’t negate her Iranian nationality. Therefore, Iran’s judiciary is competent to carry out the investigation.”
Iran’s government has long held that Ms. Kazemi, a 54-year old Canadian photographer of Iranian origin, died after fainting and hitting her head.
Ms. Kazemi’s mother and Shahram Azam, a doctor who examined her in a Tehran military hospital before she died, indicate she was tortured and raped.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, who a week ago insisted in a passionate speech in the House of Commons that “this is something on which we will not give up,” did not speak to reporters yesterday about the Kazemi case, despite requests that he do so.
Mr. Pettigrew’s official reaction to Iran’s announcement came through a spokesman.
“We are not surprised to hear stories of Iran’s response,” Sebastien Thébèrge said. “It’s consistent with the pattern of cover-up and lies.”
Asked what the Canadian government intends to do now that Iran has once again spurned its demands, the spokesman said only that “we will continue our work on this and we are not ruling out further measures.”
Ms. Kazemi died in July, 2003, several days after she was arrested while taking photos of a demonstration outside Tehran’s Evin prison.
Iranian authorities initially said she died of a stroke. A commission appointed by Iran’s President found that Ms. Kazemi died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage, caused by the impact of a hard object.
However, the most conclusive evidence about Ms. Kazemi’s death so far comes from Dr. Azam, a former Iranian military doctor who examined her early on the morning of June 27, several days after her arrest.
Dr. Azam, who has received political asylum in Canada, says Ms. Kazemi’s body bore evidence of torture, including crushed digits, missing fingernails, scratches likely caused by flogging, and severe bruising.
He also says that an emergency-room nurse examined Ms Kazemi’s genitals and saw evidence of a brutal rape.
Former Iranian MP Hossein Ansari-Rad, who led a short-lived parliamentary inquiry into Ms. Kazemi’s death, said last week that his commission saw evidence that matched some of Dr. Azam’s.
But yesterday, judiciary spokesman Mr. Karimirad repeated recent Iranian denials that Dr. Azam had examined Ms. Kazemi. He dismissed Dr. Azam’s comments as “baseless and false” and hinted they were made to gain political asylum in Canada.
Dr. Azam’s medical and employment records, which have been independently translated by The Globe and Mail, corroborate Dr. Azam’s account.
The Canadian government has also examined the documents and found them to be credible.
John Terry, a lawyer who represents Ms. Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, pressed Mr. Pettigrew for a stronger response. “If Canada is to have a multicultural citizenry drawn from all corners of the world, Canada must be prepared to use all its resources to protect our citizens when they travel abroad,” he said, “even to countries where they are also nationals. We therefore expect minister Pettigrew to respond forcefully to Iran’s statements today.”
Last year, an Iranian court acquitted Interior Ministry official Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi of killing Ms. Kazemi. Lawyers representing her relatives have conceded that Mr. Ahmadi was not guilty. They believe Ms. Kazemi was beaten to death by a prison official.