Iran Reopens Kazemi Case

By Kevin Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s Supreme Court has ordered a new trial over the death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died four years ago in a Tehran prison.

Zahra Kazemi, who was 54, was arrested in June 2003 while taking photographs outside notorious Evin Prison in the north of the capital. There, she endured more than three days of interrogation and eventually died in jail. She was never formally charged with any crime.

Shortly after her death in 2003, an Iranian judiciary accused intelligence ministry agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi of “semi-intentional murder,” which he pled not guilty. In November 2005, Ahmadi was acquitted but an appeals court ordered the case to be reopened because of “shortcomings in the investigations.” On Tuesday, verification branch of Iran’s Supreme Court had reviewed the lower courts’ rulings and ordered a new investigation to be undertaken by more “competent authority.”

Kazemi’s cause of death, meanwhile, is in dispute. Although a presidential inquiry revealed that Kazemi died from a fractured skull caused by a “physical attack,” the lower court had ruled that she died in custody from a fall after her blood pressure dropped during a hunger strike. However, a former doctor at the Iranian defense ministry who examined Kazemi during her detention said that there were obvious signs of her having been tortured and brutally raped by interrogators at the time.

Kazemi family’s legal team believes Ahmadi was a mere scapegoat who was covering up for the guilt of a higher-ranking official such as senior justice official in Evin prison, Mohammad Bakhshi. Bakhshi along with Iran currently faces a 17 million civil suit filed in Quebec Superior Court.

The case severely strained relations between the Canadian and Iranian governments since her death. Iran hastily buried Kazemi’s body after she died and rejected Canada’s request for her body to be exhumed and handed over for a new post-mortem. Furthermore, the Canadian government has repeatedly demanded that Iran agree to an international investigation into the journalist’s death to no avail.

For more information, please see:

United Press International – Iran to look again at journalist’s death – 28 November 2007

BBC News – Iranian court reopens Kazemi case – 27 November 2007

AFP – Iran orders retrial over Kazemi killing – 27 November 2007

Associated Press – New probe in death of Iranian-Canadian – 27 November 2007

The Canadian Press – Son of slain Iranian-Canadian photojournalist says Iran is playing games – 27 November 2007

Brutal Rape of 11 Month Old in DRC

By Meryl White
Impunity Watch Reporter, Western and Central Africa

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo – An 11 month baby girl has died following her rape in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The alleged rapist is a twenty year old man, who faces a life sentence.

The brutal rape and death come after a Red Cross hearing in Geneva that denounced the “systematic violence” against girls and women in DR Congo.

ICRC official, Dominik Stillhart stated, “What really shocked me personally the most, was the systematic violence especially against women and girls which is producing immense suffering.”

An estimated 16,000 victims of rape, with most rape victims suffering from obstetric fistula, have been treated at the Panzi General Hospital in Bukavu alone since 2000. Furthermore, additional cases of sexual assault and rape are unlikely to be reported, due to the social stigma attached to rape and the fear of embarrassment.

Human Rights Watch has accused The United Nations Mission located in Monuc, Congo, of failing to act against widespread abuse and rape of women in the region. Presently, around 5,000 UN peacekeepers are in DR Congo to secure peace after a five-year conflict officially ended in 2002.

Presently, in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) province of Equateur, the government has imposed a nighttime curfew in the area to curb incidents of murder and rape by armed men.

For more information, please see:

BBC – DR Congo child rape victim dies  – 29 November 2007

IRIN – DRC: Campaign against sexual violence in South Kivu  – 29 November 2007

IRIN- DRC: Curfew imposed in Equateur to stem worsening insecurity  – 28 November 2007

Violence at West Bank Funeral

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

HEBRON, West Bank – On November 28, thousands of members from Hamas and the Islamic fundamentalist Hizb al-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) attended the funeral of Hisham al-Baradi in Hebron.  Baradi, a member of the Party of Liberation, was killed at an anti-Annapolis demonstration on November 27.  Demonstrators claim that Baradi’s death was caused by gun fire from the Palestinian Authority security forces.  However, the police deny these allegations.

There are also reports that Palestinian Authority security forces used excessive force against Palestinians journalists during the rallies against the Annapolis conference.  There are claims that reporters were beaten and/or otherwise prevented from covering the demonstrations.  In addition, prior the conference, Abbas banned the occurrence of any demonstration against Annapolis.  Members of Hamas and other groups who disagree with the talks in Annapolis accuse Abbas prohibiting dissent.

At the funeral, violence erupted when the funeral procession developed into another anti-Annapolis demonstration.  Hamas and Party of Liberation members began fighting with members of the Palestinian Authority security forces when the marchers diverted from the pre-planned route and started hurling stones and bottles at the police.  The security forces responded by firing live ammunition in the air and by hitting demonstrators with batons.  Over 300 members of the security force were deployed to Hebron, specifically for the purpose of containing any demonstration stemming from the funeral.

Medics at near by hospitals report treating at least one serious gun shot injury, involving a man who was shot in the neck.  In addition, an estimated 20 to 60 people were treated with less serious injuries.  This number includes both demonstrators as well as police officers.  There are also reports of report that dozens of demonstrators were arrested by the police.

On November 29, Hamas warned that since Israeli missile attacks have killed 12 militants since November 25, that “all options were open to the Islamists against Israel.”  The Israeli military claims that the most the recent air strikes occurred in Gaza and targeted militants.

For more information, please see:

AFP – All options open against Israel after peace meet: Hamas – 29 November 2007

Independent – Abbas loyalists open fire at funeral march, injuring 26 – 29 November 2007

BBC – Dozens hurt in Mid-East protest – 28 November 2007

Jerusalem Post – At least 60 injured in Fatah-Hamas clashes – 28 November 2007

New York Times – Bush promotes Middle East peace dialogue – 28 November 2007

Reuters – Palestinian security men open fire at W.Bank funeral – 28 November 2007

International Herald Tribune – Palestinian protester killed in West Bank – 27 November 2007

Turkey: Increased Attacks on Religious Minorities

By Vivek Thiagarajan
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

MIDYAT, Turkey- Father Daniel Savici’s car was found abandoned on Wednesday in south eastern region of Mardin, Turkey.  The Syraic priest was kidnapped and is being held captive.  His kidnappers demanded 300,000 Euros as ransom for his safe release.

Lately, the Turkish Christians have faced many attacks.  Last week marked the beginning of trial for men accused of brutally murdering three Protestant Christians during a Bible study in April.   (See Story)  Also, last year a Catholic Priest was shot and killed by a young zealous nationalist.

Turkey has about 25,000 Syriac Christians.  In total, Turkey only has about 100,000 Christians out of the 75 million residents in Turkey.  The Christians have always faced opposition since the emergence of Christianity in Turkey.  Some nationalists have feared that the Christians are outsiders just seeking to rebel against the government while changing Turkish culture.  This idea has been reinforced since most Christians are either Greek or Armenian.

The animosity faced by the Christians as a different outsider religion has recently affected the atheists.  Erol Karaaslan, publisher of Steven Dawkins’s “The God Delusion,” has been recently investigated by Turkish prosecutors for insulting Turkishness, believers, and attacking “sacred values.”  (Guardian Unlimited)  The book tries to dismiss the possibility of God.

In an interview with Reuters regarding the prosecutorial investigation, Karaaslan said “[a] Turkish citizen complained, saying that this book was hurtful to members of religions living in Turkey, and wanted the book banned and the publishers punished.” (Reuters)  The “God Delusion” has sold over 6,000 copies in Turkey.

Although Turkey is officially secular, Turkey’s population is mostly Muslim.  Thus, Islam is seen as an integral part of the “Turkishness” that is protected under Article 301, which allows any person to be prosecuted for insulting the countries values. (See Article 301 story) The European Union has stated that Turkey must relax its enforcement of article 301 in order for Turkey to enter the Union.

The Turkish government must show a strong commitment to protecting minority belief systems in Turkey.  It must adapt its rendition of secular society to include the free expression of religions throughout the country instead of regulating under the guise of a secular society.  This will enable all non-Muslims such as Christians, Jews, and Atheists to believe freely without fear of possible ramifications.  Also, protection of the religious minorities is necessary for Turkey in its possible effort to join the EU.

For more information, please see:

AP- Turkish Prosecutor Probes Atheist Book- 28 November 2007

BBC News- Turkish Christian priest abducted- 29 November 2007

Guardian Unlimited- Dawkins publisher may be tried for attack on ‘sacred values’- 28 November 2007

International Herald Tribune (AP)- Turkish prosecutor probes whether atheist book “The God Delusion” assaults values- 28 November 2007

Javno- Christian Priest Kidnapped in S. East Turkey- 29 November 2007

NTV MSNBC- Mystery surrounds kidnapping of Turkish priest- 29 November 2007

Reuters Africa- “God Delusion” publisher may face prosecution- 29 November 2007

BRIEF: Former Resistance Leader Shot in Bougainville

KONO, Bougainville – Bougainville is an autonomous province in Papua New Guinea, and it experienced civil war during its fight for independence from PNG.  Jacob Naisi, deputy commander of the Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF), was shot dead at close range last Sunday afternoon in his village while walking home from the bakery with his two neices.  It is believed that the shooters are the same group who commandeered a UN vehicle in the area last week.

Naisi, who was instrumental in the peace process, died as he was being rushed to the village.  Donald Hamau, regional chairman for the BRF, said that Naisi’s death highlights the need for the Bougainville government to address lingering reconciliation and weapons disposal issues.

Bougainville president Joseph Kabui  said that it was likely that Naisi was killed by Me’ekamui rebels to derail the peace process.  He said, “It is the one spot in Bougainville that is still — there are tensions so on and so forth, still suspicions, still haunting the area.”

For more information, please see:

The National – BRF leader shot dead – 28 November 2007

Radio Australia – Bougainville President pays tribute to dead resistance fighter – 28 November 2007

Radio New Zealand International – Bougainville killing in Kono recalls former tensions – 28 November 2007