Reporters Without Borders on September 26 deplored the conclusion of a judge investigating the murder of Canadian-Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi that no state body was behind the killing and that it was simply the work of a single intelligence ministry agent who interrogated her. It repeated its call for an independent enquiry including international experts.
The judge, Javad Esmaeli, attached to the office of the hardline Teheran prosecutor, Said Mortazavi, presented his report on 22 September, blaming the unnamed agent, who has been charged with her "semi-intentional" murder, implying that he hit Kazemi without intending to kill her.
"We are very suspicious of this report, conducted under the authority of Judge Mortazavi, who has been implicated in this affair," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "We hope that parliament's Article 90 Committee (which investigates public complaints against government bodies) will publish its own conclusions without making any compromises."
"What does the Esmaeli report mean ? Kazemi was held for 77 hours, during which she passed from the prosecutor's office, to the police and then the intelligence ministry. The commission of enquiry set up by reformist President Mohammad Khatami said she was "beaten" during the first few hours. How can Judge Esmaeli come to such a different conclusion ? Why has only one person been charged ? How did this person hit Kazemi without his superior knowing ? How can no civilian or military official not have known she was beaten ?" Ménard said.
Canadian foreign minister Bill Graham met his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharrazi, on 23 September and was assured that Canadian officials and Kazemi's family could take part in the trial, whose date has not been set. Reporters Without Borders hopes that neither the Iranian nor the Canadian government will accept Judge Esmaeli's conclusions and that a thorough investigation will establish the identity of all those responsible for Kazemi's death.
The case has become a political football between the reformists around President Khatami and the hardliners led by the country's Supreme Guide, Ali Khamenei, thus preventing a proper enquiry. The intelligence ministry, which is close to the reformists, reacted angrily to the charging of one of its officials and reiterated a threat to release evidence pointing a finger at Judge Mortazavi's office.
Kazemi, who lived in Canada, was arrested on 23 June this year as she took pictures of prisoners' families in front of Teheran's Evin prison. She died on 10 July from a brain haemorrhage caused by her beating in detention. After officials tried to cover up the cause of her death, Vice-President Ali Abtahi admitted on 16 July she had been beaten.
Her body was hastily buried on 22 July despite the request of her mother, who lives in Iran, for the body to be repatriated to Canada. The request has since been repeated by Kazemi's son and the Canadian authorities.
... Payvand News - 9/27/03 ... --