Aug. 26, 2003. 01:00 AM
Two face trial in Iran beating
OTTAWATwo Iranian officials have been detained and ordered to stand trial in the beating death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, Tehran's prosecutor's office said yesterday.
The Islamic Republic News Agency reported the two "interrogators" have not been named in what Iran's criminal court inspector is calling a "quasi-intentional murder."
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham welcomed the news as "a very positive step," although he said he had yet to confirm the details of the charges.
"This is the beginning of understanding why she died ... and who will be held responsible," he said after a speech in Los Angeles, adding: "We expect access to the trial process."
France Bureau, a spokesperson for Graham, said more details might emerge today when Javad Esmaeili the judge who has been leading the inquiry into Kazemi's death is expected to deliver a report.
"The charges levelled against the interrogators, who are said to be members of the intelligence ministry, are announced as complicity in semi-intentional murder," the Iranian news agency said, quoting the Tehran prosecutor's office.
Kazemi's son indicated he had little confidence in the way the Iranians are handling the case.
"The Iranians do it as they want it," Stephan Hachemi said in a phone interview from his Montreal home. "They arrest a few people that are minor."
Hachemi said he believes those responsible for his mother's death go beyond the two suspects.
Iranian authorities had said earlier that five intelligence and prison officials were arrested in connection with Kazemi's death. It was not clear whether the two now ordered to stand trial are among the five arrested.
Kazemi, a Montreal-based freelance photojournalist, was arrested June 23 while taking photos outside Tehran's notoriously harsh Evin prison. She was interrogated for more than three days and later transferred to a hospital, where officials said she died July 10 of a brain hemorrhage from a blow to the head.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whose reformist government has clashed with the religious clerics who control the judiciary, security and intelligence forces, ordered an investigation into her death.
Kazemi's violent death and quick burial in Iran outraged Canadians and caused a rift in relations between Ottawa and Iran.
Iran's foreign minister, Kamal Kharazzi, had said he would listen to the wishes of the Canadian government and Kazemi's family, who wanted her body returned to Canada. But the 54-year-old's remains were buried July 23 in her southern Iranian birthplace of Shiraz.
As an act of diplomatic protest, Canada recalled its ambassador, Philip MacKinnon. He remains in Ottawa and no date has been set for his return, Bureau said.
A statement from the prosecutor's office that was faxed to IRNA said the investigation into Kazemi's death included reviewing an earlier presidential report, "viewing and inspecting all locations where Zahra Kazemi was" and "questioning all persons who had responsibilities in those locations and were in touch with (her)."
Other activities included "getting the professional opinion of forensic experts where necessary," "investigating Zahra Kazemi's mother," "investigating the medical background of Zahra Kazemi sent from the hospital" and "establishment of a medical commission with the presence of specialist doctors."
The statement said the investigation involved questioning at the intelligence ministry, Evin prison and all prisons of Tehran province, "inspecting all records related to locations where Zahra Kazemi was" and "getting expert opinion of official justice experts on the signatures and writings of Zahra Kazemi in her final interrogation."
Finally, the statement said "there were other investigations that were effective in terms of the final decision, but, due to legal limitations, their publication at this stage is not possible."
An intelligence ministry official, speaking to IRNA, said claims the two officials were involved in Kazemi's death are "sheer lies." The intelligence ministry intended to release details surrounding Kazemi's death soon, the official added without elaborating.
Sharam Golestaneh, president of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran, said he's not surprised Iran has not released the names of the two interrogators, and laughed at the description of the crime as "quasi-intentional."
"Suppose that a judge says in a court, `Well, he quasi-murdered someone.' What does that mean? Nothing."
He said Iran's officials have made similar pronouncements before, including after bloody police raids on dormitories at Tehran University in 1999. "We know now, those who have been actually condemned and sent to prison, they showed up again this year in the student demonstrations and were beating them."
He said that if names were to be released, they likely wouldn't belong to anyone high-ranking, such as Saeed Mortazavi, the Tehran prosecutor who many reformists believe delivered the fatal blow to Kazemi.
Wayne Cox, an international relations professor at Queen's University who specializes in the Middle East, said the Islamic clerics will likely want to get to the bottom of the case, but disclosing the details would probably not occur without a major political shift in Iran.
"We may find out precisely what happened in more detail in a couple of years from now, just like after the (Berlin) Wall fell down, then we started to hear things years later about what went on in the Soviet Union," he said.
Kazemi's son complained again yesterday that Ottawa hasn't pushed hard enough to have his mother's body brought home. But Graham insisted Ottawa has been "keeping pressure" on Iran. http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1061849412371&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154
Information min: Revolutionary Court`s claims on Kazemi`s death
Tehran, Aug 25, IRNA -- Iran`s Information Ministry on Monday night
branded the communique issued on Monday by the PR office of the
General and Revolutionary Court on Zahra Kazemi`s death, as "Sheer
Deputy Information Minister "Shafie" told IRNA, "Claims made by
the prosecutor of Bench 1 of Tehran`s Criminal Court, in which two
of the information ministry`s interrogators are accused of `being
accomplices` in the `quasi intentional murder` of Ms Kazemi are
He further emphasized, "The Information Ministry has discovered
the truth of the matter on the case related to the death of Zahra
Kazemi, and is intended to publish it for public information in very
Two interrogators of Ms Zahra Kazemi have been found responsible
for her sudden death, Inspector of the Criminal Court had said on
The inspector described Ms Kazemi`s death as "quasi intentional
He did not reveal the names of the two interrogators, but said
that they had been Information Ministry staffers.
The inspector brought judicial justification for not making public
the names of the interrogators, but, said that he ordered to detain
them to hold the legal proceedings.
Iranian photojournalist Ms Zahra Kazemi working for London-based
Camera Press died in custody on July 11 after she had been arrested
for taking picture from demonstrators in prohibited area outside Evin
prison compound on June 23. http://www.irna.ir/#2003_08_2523_07_477