Canada to Iran: Follow our lead
Norma Greenaway, with files from Anne Dawson
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Graham offers Tehran access to inquiry into RCMP shooting death of Iranian teen.......>>>>
The Chrétien government has sought to up the pressure on Tehran to find and punish those responsible for the death in detention of a Montreal photojournalist by offering Iranian officials access to the investigation of the police shooting of an Iranian teenager in British Columbia.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham made the offer yesterday in a diplomatic note to the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa. He was responding to Iran's attempts Thursday to draw a parallel between Zahra Kazemi's death in custody in Iran on July 10 and the fatal July 14 shooting by a Port Moody police officer of Keyvan Tabesh, an Iranian youth who was allegedly wielding a machete.
Though he rejected the analogy, Mr. Graham told reporters he would use the homicide inquiry and a planned coroner's inquest into Mr. Tabesh's death in B.C. to show Iran how democratic societies conduct such investigations. He urged Iran to follow its lead by giving Canadian officials access to an equally transparent investigation into how Ms. Kazemi died from a fractured skull.
"They raised the case of Mr. Tabesh," Mr. Graham said.
"They said the circumstances were an analogy. I'm saying if there is an analogy, then I expect the analogy to take place."
"And I expect us to have the reciprocal rights and privileges in Iran. In that case, for example, we would expect the same form of open, transparent investigation into the death of Mrs. Kazemi to take place with the opportunity of our officials to be present and represented as we will offer them the same representation in our society."
Mr. Graham returns to Ottawa today to meet Canada's ambassador to Iran to consider other measures to bring Iran to heel over the Kazemi inquiry and the government's continued efforts to have her remains returned to Canada. Trade and diplomatic sanctions are on the list.
The government recalled Ambassador Philip MacKinnon to protest Ms. Kazemi's burial Wednesday in Iran, contrary to the wishes expressed by her son in Montreal and the federal government.
Paul Martin, the front-runner to replace Jean Chrétien as prime minister, weighed in on the Kazemi affair for the first time yesterday by praising Mr. Graham, one of his leadership supporters, for recalling the ambassador and keeping the pressure on Iran.
"I believe that this is something that Canada must deal with in the strongest terms," Mr. Martin said.
"The actions that Bill Graham is taking are the right ones, and I would encourage him to do whatever he has to do in order to have the truth come out."
Mr. Graham said the need for an impartial inquiry is more apparent in light of new revelations that a senior Iranian official said he had been coerced into covering up the beating death of Ms. Kazemi by stating falsely she had died of a stroke.
"It's now clear there has been acceptance that the death occurred as a result of actions of authorities in the prison. That's beyond doubt now. It's just a question of ascertaining who those authorities are.
"And, of course, we've seen the recent reports the effect there was pressure put on certain Iranian authorities to provide a false declaration as to the cause of death. We are assuming that all of these matters will be the subject of an open inquiry in Iran, which we will have the opportunity to participate in."
Mr. Graham laid out the plans for the Tabesh inquiry, beginning with the current homicide investigation into the culpability of the police officer, now on leave, and going on to a public coroner's inquest into the circumstances of the death.
In the diplomatic note, the federal government offered to help Iranian officials go to B.C. and talk to investigators.
It also noted the remains of Mr. Tabesh had been returned to his family and buried in Vancouver, as per the family's request, a pointed shot at the refusal of Iranian authorities to heed the requests to return her body to Canada for burial.
Mr. Graham said he is hoping to persuade the pro-reformist Khatami government to put pressure on the judicial authorities responsible for conducting the inquiry. Reformists in Iran view many in the judiciary as conservative hardliners, and the Kazemi case has become a cause célèbre for both sides in the ongoing power struggle in Iran.
Javad Esmaeili, a veteran Iranian judge, was named yesterday to conduct independent inquiry. Mr. Graham said he that he will seek Mr. MacKinnon's input in evaluating that appointment during their weekend meetings. http://canada.com/national/story.asp?id=CAAA47DD-4177-4558-AFF5-EA28C10A5F79