Kazemi Wrote About Prison Beating, Iranians Say
October 09, 2003
MONTREAL - The Montreal photojournalist killed while in custody in Tehran managed to write down details of a beating she received on the first day of her imprisonment, Iran's Intelligence Ministry has said.
In a statement released after one of its agents went on trial on Tuesday for Zahra Kazemi's killing, the ministry said the victim's own account, written on June 24, was ignored by authorities investigating her death.
"A letter written by Zahra Kazemi the day after her arrest said she had been beaten and thrown to the ground during her first day in detention in Evin prison," the statement carried by Iran's ISNA student news agency said.
"It was in the report prepared by [intelligence] agents but unfortunately, this important detail, which is just part of a body of evidence we have, was not taken into account by prosecutors." The statement offered no additional details but said more information would be provided at a future news conference.
The revelation comes amid a power struggle between the reformist Intelligence Ministry and the conservative judiciary, which has charged Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, an obscure intelligence agent, with fatally beating Ms. Kazemi.
The 54-year-old photographer, who was born in Iran and held both Iranian and Canadian citizenship, was arrested on June 23 while taking pictures outside Evin prison.
After enduring 77 hours of interrogation, she fell into a coma and died in hospital on July 10. Authorities initially attributed her death to a stroke but later admitted she had suffered fatal blows to the head.
Mohammad Khatami, the reformist President, yesterday cast doubt on the fairness of the trial and suggested the judiciary is covering up its own involvement in the death. The trial was adjourned on Tuesday to allow the defence time to study the indictment.
"How is it that the trial opens but the defendant and his lawyer are not informed of the bill of indictment?
"That means they are invited to a court to defend something they don't know about," Mr. Khatami said.
The President urged the police to question the judiciary official who initially said Ms. Kazemi died of a stroke.
"Why are all those who were in contact with Kazemi not questioned, including those who ordered a Culture Ministry official to say she died of stroke," Mr. Khatami said in reference to the hardline Tehran Prosecutor General, Saeed Mortazavi.
In a statement carried on the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency yesterday, Iran's deputy judiciary chief responded to criticism of his department by belittling Ms. Kazemi.
Mohammad-Javad Larijani, the deputy judiciary chief, denied any political motive behind Ms. Kazemi's death, "given that Kazemi was neither a prominent figure, nor had she accomplished any significant achievement." He went on to say "such a crime is likely to happen everywhere in the world," according to the statement.
Canada's ambassador, Philip MacKinnon, who returned to Iran this month after being recalled in protest, attended the trial's opening.
Asked whether Canada is satisfied with the legal process to date, Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said only, "We're watching closely." email@example.com http://www.nationalpost.com/national/story.html?id=F4E0E398-3D26-4027-8E15-0F1EB028470B