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Iran raps Canada for 'complicating' case of dead journalist

Tehran, April 10, IRNA-Iran chided Canada Sunday for adopting a 'wrong approach' toward the death of a female journalist, blaming the country for complicating the matter.

"The Canadians have been following a wrong approach from the outset and adding to the complications of this matter," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said during his weekly news briefing.

Ottawa has called for an independent investigation into the death of Iranian journalist Zahra Kazemi, demanding that her remains be handed over to Canada and a post-mortem carried out.

Rejecting the demand, Asefi said, "The Canadians must know that Zahra Kazemi is an Iranian, whose case is a state affair and it is the Judiciary which has to answer their (Canadians') demands." The demands have followed allegations by a shady figure identified as Shahram Azam, described as a former Iranian military doctor, who has recounted signs of alleged torture on the body of Kazemi.

Azam, who has defected to Canada, has alleged that Kazemi was unconscious when she was taken into hospital in Tehran and had injuries indicating torture.

Iran has strongly rejected the allegations, denouncing them as 'baseless and completely false'. Hospital staff have also lined up to deny Shahram Azam ever worked in their unit.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer of the victim's family, stressed Sunday that she had never seen Azam nor known him.

"I have never seen such a person or know him," Ebadi told IRNA here.

"There are no new points in Mr. Azam's remarks and I don't know what this fuss is all about," she added.

The 54-year-old journalist died in 2003 because of fractured skull.

An ad hoc committee, formed on President Mohammad Khatami's order, said that Kazemi died after her skull was fractured either 'because a hard object hit her head or her head hit a hard object'.

The journalist, working for Canadian Camera Press journal, was arrested in June 2003 while illegally taking pictures of Evin prison in Tehran.

Several days later, she was pronounced dead.

Ebadi said there were indications that Kazemi had entered the prison safe and sound, but had been taken to Baqi'iatallah hospital four days later in coma because of a brain hemorrhage, where she died.

Her death triggered a spat between the Iranian and Canadian governments after Tehran rejected Ottawa's demand that her body be transferred to Canada.

Ottawa recalled its ambassador to Tehran, followed by Iran summoning Canadian charge d'affaires, in connection with the death of an Iranian national which was blamed on Canadian police.

The death came as the Canadian police attacked three Iranian nationals in Vancouver, killing Keyvan Tabesh and injuring Amir Aqaie.

The attack was met by a news blackout in Canada.

... Payvand News - 4/11/05 ... --

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