The findings of an official Iranian enquiry into the death in custody of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian of Iranian origin, were today dismissed as totally unsatisfactory by Reporters Without Borders, which reiterated its call for an independent investigation into her death after she was detained in Tehran on 23 June.
The organisation said the report released yesterday did nothing to establish who was responsible for Kazemi's death. It did not say if the blow to the head that resulted in her death occurred when she was struck with a blunt object or if she hit an object when she fell. The report said only that the blow occurred no more than 36 hours before her hospitalisation at midnight on 27 June.
According to the sequence of events established by the enquiry, this could have been when was in the custody of the office of Tehran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi or in the custody of the intelligence ministry.
Reporters Without Borders said it was shocked to learn that the doctors in Baghiatollah hospital had established that Kazemi was "brain dead" on 27 June. The report does not say why the doctors waiting until 10 July, the day after the anniversary of the July 1999 student demonstrations, to report her death.
The organisation called for light to be shed on every aspect of this case and said those who killed Kazemi, as well as those who may have instigated her murder, should be identified and punished, no matter how high their positions.
Reporters Without Borders has already asked the authorities in Tehran to allow an autopsy on Kazemi's body to be carried in Canada by independent forensic doctors, as requested from the outset by her son, Stéphane Kazemi, who lives in Canada. Kazemi's parents in Iran now also say they would like this.
The organisation also believes that the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, whose visit to Tehran has just been cancelled by the Iranian authorities, should be allowed to travel to Iran as soon as possible.
At the same time, the organisation urged the Canadian authorities to support these demands and make no concessions to pressure from the Iranian authorities. The organisation has supported Stéphane Kazemi's initiatives by providing him with the help of an Iranian lawyer who lives in Tehran, Namat Ahmadi. The lack of information about Kazemi's death has now been compounded by disturbing and contradictory information about her burial. The authorities said they were refraining from burying Kazemi while awaiting the results of the enquiry. But the Iranian ambassador to Paris, Seyed Sadegh Kharazi, told a Reporters Without Borders delegation she was buried on 13 or 14 July at the request of her parents who still live in Iran. It has not however been possible to establish exactly where she was buried.
Kazemi's arrest on 23 June occurred as she was photographing Evin prison north of Tehran. On 27 June, she was handed in a critical condition to officials of the intelligence ministry. The authorities then informed her family she was in a coma at the Baghiatollah military hospital in Tehran, which is run by Revolutionary Guards. Meanwhile, police searched her family's home following her arrest, confiscating a large amount of money and camera equipment.
Twenty-one journalists are currently in prison in Iran, which makes the Islamic republic the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East. Thirteen of them were arrested in the past 40 days. They include Abolgasem Golbaf of the monthly Gozaresh, who was detained on 20 July for "disseminating false information."
As far as Reporters Without Borders has been able to establish, 15 of the imprisoned journalists are currently being held by Revolutionary Guards in the same place where Kazemi was interrogated. The organisation is very concerned about their fate, especially as their relatives have referred to physical and psychological torture in a letter to President Mohammad Khatami.
... Payvand News - 7/22/03 ... --