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