Iran News ...


7/26/03

Reporters Without Borders calls on EU to break with Iran over journalist's death

Reporters Without Borders (www.rsf.org/) called on the European Union today to break off the "constructive dialogue" it has conducted with Iran since 1998 until officials responsible for the death of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi earlier this month had been brought to trial.

It said it was "unthinkable" that such talks could continue while such a serious crime remained unpunished. It also called on the EU to back Canadian efforts to have Kazemi's body returned to Canada and for an international commission of enquiry to be set up.

The appeal to the EU was made in a letter to the current EU Commission president, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, to EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten and to Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy.

After official attempts to cover up the cause of Kazemi's death, Iranian Vice-President Mohamed Ali Abtahi publicly admitted on 16 July that she had been "beaten." An autopsy and a government commission set up by President Mohammad Khatami was not able to provide full details and the origin of the skull fracture that caused her death remains a mystery.

For the past week, Iranian legal officials have strongly opposed further investigation. Kazemi was hastily buried on 22 July in the southern town of Chiraz, making a new autopsy by independent experts more difficult. Canada has repeatedly asked for the body to be repatriated.

The case file was handed over on 23 July to a military prosecutor by the hardline Teheran prosecutor Said Mortazavi, who some accuse of being directly responsible for Kazemi's death. He said errors may have been committed by the intelligence services or security forces but definitely not by his department.

The government commission of enquiry said Mortazavi had personally attended the interrogation of Kazemi shortly after she was arrested. With the military now in charge of the case, any trial will be held in secret without independent observers and without any guarantee of neutrality or impartiality.

Kazemi is thought to have been arrested on 23 July as she took photos of Evin prison, in northern Teheran. She was then reportedly beaten and died of her injuries on 11 July.

A total of 23 journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran, making it the biggest jail for journalists in the Middle East. Thirteen of them are believed to be held by Mortazavi's department and by the Guardians of the Revolution, in the same place where Kazemi was interrogated. They are not allowed visits from family or lawyers and are held in very bad conditions. Reporters Without Borders is very worried about their plight. Their families have written to President Khatami saying they have been physically and psychologically tortured.

Copyright (c) 2003. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

... Payvand News - 7/26/03 ... --



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