Iran General NewsNew Iran hearing into murdered photographer ends in an...

New Iran hearing into murdered photographer ends in an hour

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AFP: A Tehran appeals court handling the case of murdered Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi on Monday wrapped up its first hearing in less than one hour after turfing out reporters and refusing to hear arguments from family lawyers. The intelligence agent accused of the murder but acquitted in the first trial was absent from the hearing, which may prove to be Iran’s last look into a controversial case that has badly damaged relations with Canada. AFP

by Hiedeh Farmani

TEHRAN – A Tehran appeals court handling the case of murdered Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi on Monday wrapped up its first hearing in less than one hour after turfing out reporters and refusing to hear arguments from family lawyers.

The intelligence agent accused of the murder but acquitted in the first trial was absent from the hearing, which may prove to be Iran’s last look into a controversial case that has badly damaged relations with Canada.

Kazemi, who was 54, died in custody in July 2003 from a brain haemorrhage 10 days after being arrested for photographing a demonstration outside a Tehran prison.

Iran’s government has acknowledged that Kazemi was violently beaten in prison, although the hardline judiciary has also said she may have died as the result of a fall given that the sole accused was found not guilty.

Lawyers representing the family of Kazemi have accused the judiciary of covering up the case, and they told reporters they had attempted to use the hearing to argue for a fresh investigation.

“We have protested over the competence of the court, because premeditated murder has to be dealt with by a provincial court” with three judges present, said family lawyer Mohammad Ali Dadkhah.

“We asked the judge to determine if his tribunal was competent so that we could start the defence, but he said he had heard enough and ended the hearing,” Dadkhah added.

“The judge said he would decide on our objections — which should take a week according to the law,” said the other family lawyer, Mohammad Seifzadeh.

“If they accept our demand, a fresh process will start, though they could also uphold the first verdict,” he said. If the result of the first trial is upheld, the case will effectively be closed.

Journalists had been informed that Monday’s hearing would be open, but were forced out of the court by security personnel.

On July 24, 2004 a Tehran court acquitted an intelligence agent accused of giving the journalist a mortal blow on the head while she was kept in custody in Evin prison, north of Tehran.

During the trial, lawyers of the Kazemi family took to the defence of the accused and said it was a judiciary official who was responsible.

Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who heads the team of lawyers representing Kazemi’s mother, has also demanded the head of judiciary appoint a special examining judge to “discover the truth”.

But authorities here have been keen to see the back of the embarrassing affair.

Last month the judiciary again rejected Canada’s demand for Kazemi’s body — which was hastily buried inside Iran after her death — to be dug up and handed over for a new autopsy. The latest request from Ottowa was made amid allegations from an exiled Iranian doctor that the photographer had been raped and tortured.

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, asserts that Canada has no business looking into the affair.

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