Family skeptical of Iranian probe into Canadian photojournalist's death November 27, 2007
Iran's Supreme Court has ordered a new investigation into the 2003 death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist while in custody, a judiciary spokesman said Tuesday, but the family's lawyer has responded to the news with skepticism.
Zahra Kazemi, 54, died in Iranian custody on July, 11, 2003, nearly three weeks after she was arrested for taking photographs outside the country's notorious Evin prison in Tehran during student protests.
Kazemi's family lawyer said the family is "very skeptical" about news of another investigation into the Montreal-based freelance journalist's death.
"Our past experience with the Iranian justice system has left us profoundly disappointed and we really question whether anything fair can come out of that process," lawyer John Terry said.
Lawyers for Kazemi's family had requested an investigation into her death, arguing there were irregularities in the initial investigation and that the death was homicide, not an accident as originally ruled.
A presidential inquiry had found that Kazemi died from a fractured skull resulting from a "physical attack."
But in 2005, an Iranian court investigated the case and ruled she died from a fall after her blood pressure dropped during a hunger strike. The judges subsequently acquitted the sole accused in the case, an intelligence officer.
"Judges at the Supreme Court have objected to the [Iranian] court investigating the case, saying it was not competent to investigate the case," judiciary spokesperson Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters Tuesday.
The Canadian government had rejected the 2005 Iranian court decision in part because Iran had not allowed Canadian observers at the otherwise open trial.
Iran has also rejected Ottawa's requests for Kazemi's body to be returned to Canada.
Son seeks justice
Kazemi's death came onto the radar in Canada in 2005, when an Iranian doctor who fled the country said that he had examined her in hospital and found obvious signs of torture.
Shahram Azam said the signs of torture included a skull fracture, broken fingers, missing fingernails, severe abdominal bruising, a broken nose and evidence of a brutal rape.
Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, has continued his fight for justice in his mother's death.
Hachemi said a new probe into his mother's death means nothing unless the court seeks to involve the family or the Canadian government. He said he has no confidence in the Iranian justice system.
"Skepticism really means doubt. I have no doubts about the government of Iran," Hachemi told CBC News on Tuesday. "They are criminal from A to Z, and there is no hope whatsoever."
Hachemi also criticized the Canadian government, saying he felt Canada failed to pursue justice in the case.
"I have no help from the Canadian government. They're not willing to do any concrete measures to to take any serious action," he said, adding he was forced to file a civil suit against the government of Iran and the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, because the Canadian government would not take Iran in front of the International Court of Justice.
"There is a lot to say about the government of Canada. I'm not sure if you have the time for that," he said. "This is a really disgusting government, what can I say?"
Hachemi's lawyer said it is unlikely there will be a "glimmer of hope" for a fair trial.
"For him to hear about yet another investigation or inquiry, to him it's just not significant news," said the family's lawyer.
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