HUMAN RIGHTS: Judge Abruptly Ends Zahar Kazemis Death in Custody Trial
Radio Farda Newsroom
July 18, 2004 I'm so angry I cannot speak. They didnt even pay attention to our evidence and announced the end of the trial, Novel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said on Sunday to reporters, as she walked out from the courtroom where the trial of intelligence agent Mohammd-Reza Aqdam for killing her clients kin Zahra Kazemi.
Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, 54, died last July in the Evin prison of broken skull and hemorrhage, which, a presidential investigative panel said, was a result of the blows she had received during interrogation.
This is not a fair trial. The case hasn't been reviewed. If they issue a verdict it will be unfair, Ms. Ebadi said outside the Tehran criminal court on the second day of the trial, during which Ms. Ebadi and her colleagues tried to present evidence and quoted reports showing that other officials, notably from the Islamic governments judiciary, may have been involved in Zahra Kazemis death.
Victim familys lawyers also protested against the trials venue, and said the case must be tried as a murder at a higher, province-level penal court.
Foreign diplomats, including Canadian and Dutch envoys to Tehran, and foreign journalists, who attended the trial on Saturday, were barred from entering the courtroom on Sunday.
The defendant, whose trial resumed on Saturday after a nine-months break, and is charged with semi-involuntary manslaughter, maintained that he was innocent. He faces a maximum of three years in prison. His lawyer told the court that witnesses had seen the victim being hit on the head by a senior judicial official, identified as Mohammad Bakhshi.
The trial pits the judiciary against the intelligence ministry, Khatamis reformist government against the conservatives in the intelligence and security forces and the judiciary, and pits the lawyers of the victim against the lawyers of the accused, and pits both sets of lawyers against the judge, who ended the trial abruptly, announced that verdict will be announced sometime next seek.
The Islamic government officials last week rejected Canadas request to send three observers to the trial. They said Kazemi had entered Iran as an Iranian and her death in custody was an internal issue. But Kazemis death, the subsequent investigations and the trial a year after, places Canada and the Islamic government on two sides of a diplomatic row which may impact the two countrys trade and diplomatic relations.
Canada recalled its Tehran envoy last week, after the judiciary said Canadian diplomats could not attend the trial, but suspended the recall on Saturday, after Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon attended the trial.
Canada Recalls Tehran Envoy, Again
July 18, 2004 - Canadas ambassador to Tehran Philip Mackinnon would return home, Canadas Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said on Sunday, calling the abruptly ended trial in Tehran of an intelligence ministry official for killing Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi flagrant denial of justice.
Ambassador Philip MacKinnon, his Dutch counterpart representing the European Union and senior diplomats from Britain and France - alongside foreign journalists - arrived at the courtroom on Sunday to find their access blocked. A spokeswoman for the UK Foreign Office confirmed that a British observer had attended the trial on Saturday but was denied entry on Sunday. She made no further comment.
The judge said foreign diplomats and journalists were being barred to show the international community that Iran would not bow under pressure, the judge said on Sunday, according to Iranian reporters who were allowed inside the courtroom.
Kazemis death in custody trial has strained Iran-Canada relations. Graham said last week that Canada was considering its options, including economic and trade sanctions against Iran and taking Iran to the International Court of Justice.