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Iran Names Judge to Probe Woman's Death

NYTimes 7.25.2003
Filed at 3:46 p.m. ET

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran has named a veteran judge to lead an independent inquiry into the death of an Iranian-Canadian journalist who died in police custody, the prosecutor's office said Friday -- the second major investigation of the case in two weeks.

The death of Zahra Kazemi has become another dispute in the struggle for power between reformers and hard-liners who control Iran's police force, judiciary and security agencies. Reformers have called for the ouster of hard-liners they hold responsible for her death.


The new inquiry was ordered by Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who demanded those behind the journalist's death face an open trial. Canada also recalled its ambassador, threatened sanctions and demanded a new investigation into the journalist's death.

Kazemi died July 10, nearly three weeks after she was detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests. After 77 hours of interrogation, she was rushed to an intensive care unit in a hospital controlled by hard-line Revolutionary Guards, where she died 14 days later.

Officials had tried to bury Kazemi quietly, saying she died of a stroke, but were stopped by presidential investigators. The reformist vice president then announced Kazemi died of a beating.

The presidential committee that investigated Kazemi's death said she had complained of punishment from her guards and died of a ``fractured skull, brain hemorrhage and its consequences resulting from a hard object hitting the head or the head hitting a hard object.''

In a letter published Thursday, Mohammad Hussein Khoshvaqt, head of the foreign press department, said Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi had forced him to announce that Kazemi had died of a stroke.

On Friday, a prosecutor's office official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Judge Javad Esmaeili will head the new probe and has begun preliminary investigations, including a visit Thursday to the Evin prison where Kazemi had been detained.

``Esmaeili's appointment is a step forward. At least the main suspect is not sitting as the judge,'' said reformist lawmaker Reza Yousefian.

Canada withdrew its ambassador after Kazemi was buried Wednesday in her birthplace, the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, against the wishes of Canadian authorities and her son, who lives in Montreal.

In a separate development Friday, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi demanded a thorough investigation into the July 14 shooting death of an Iranian by Canadian police in Port Moody, a small city east of Vancouver.

Keyvan Tabesh, 18, of Burnaby, British Columbia, was waving a machete and running toward a plainclothes police officer when the officer killed him. Tabesh was an Iranian citizen with immigrant status who had lived in Canada for about two years.

``The Canadian government has failed in its diplomatic responsibility to report this case to the Islamic Republic of Iran quickly,'' Kharrazi said in remarks carried by state-run Tehran TV.

A spokesman for Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited Iran to send observers to Canada to oversee the police investigation into Tabesh's death.

``We are ready to offer them (Iran) complete and unfettered assistance in communicating with the authorities,'' Reynald Doiron said Friday.

23 posted on 07/25/2003 3:30:21 PM PDT by DoctorZIn (IranAzad... Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
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24 posted on 07/25/2003 4:39:53 PM PDT by firewalk
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