Canada Lashes Out at Iran Over Death Probe
August 27, 2003
OTTAWA -- Canada complained angrily on Wednesday that Iran had not yet handed over a report into the violent death of a Canadian journalist in Tehran and repeated a threat to impose sanctions unless the matter was resolved to Ottawa's satisfaction.
A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Bill Graham said Tehran Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi had met senior Canadian officials on Thursday to discuss the case of Zahra Kazemi, 54, but had no provided no new details.
Mortazavi's office has charged two interrogators from the Intelligence Ministry with complicity in the "semi-intentional" murder of Kazemi, who died from a blow to the head after she was arrested for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison.
Graham spokeswoman Isabelle Savard said Graham had expressed his "profound disappointment" with recent developments in the case.
"Although Canada has made repeated requests, the Iranian government has yet to provide us with the investigative report on Ms Kazemi's death," she quoted Graham as saying.
"This is not the cooperation and transparency that Canada has insisted on and that I have been promised by (Iranian) Foreign Minister (Kamal) Kharrazi," Graham said.
Kazemi's death sparked a diplomatic dispute between Iran and Canada, which withdrew its ambassador in protest. Graham has also threatened unspecified sanctions against Iran unless the circumstances over her death are cleared up.
Asked whether the threat of sanctions was still valid, Savard replied: "All options are open".
She said the report into the death of Kazemi, who was buried in Iran against the wishes of her family and Ottawa, was now expected in September.
"The Minister also emphasized that the matter is not over, that Canada will continue to use every opportunity to see that justice is done for Ms Kazemi and that the wishes of her family to have her remains returned are respected," she said.
Iran's ability to unravel the case and punish the culprits is seen as a test of reformist President Mohammad Khatami's struggle to exert his authority over hard-line rivals who control the judiciary and other powerful state institutions.
The incident has also thrown a spotlight on Iran's security services and how the media in the Islamic Republic is treated.
Iran's Intelligence Ministry has denied its staff were in any way responsible for Kazemi's death.
Iranian officials initially said Kazemi died of a stroke, but an initial government inquiry concluded she had been killed by a brain hemorrhage caused by a severe blow to the skull.
Iran's Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said at the end of July she was probably murdered.
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