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7/28/05

Iran: Human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi accuses appeals court of refusing to call victim's witnesses

TEHRAN, 28 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Human rights lawyer and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has angrily denounced an appeal court that has heard the case of murdered Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi.


Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi

Ebadi, one of the lawyers for the Kazemi family, condemned the court for refusing to call the family's witnesses, despite promises made by the judiciary two months ago and has said the legal proceedings were not legitimate. She said the court showed no interest in her legal arguments. She has asked to present new evidence.

"So far they've not taken into account any of the issues that we raised in our appeal and they've not called any of our witnesses," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"I'm an optimist by nature and I hope that this case will be settled fairly inside Iran by Iranian judges. But should that not prove the case, my duty as a lawyer is to follow this case until my dying day and I will use all means, domestic and international," the rights activist said.

Foreign media and diplomats were not allowed into the court and Ebadi accused the judiciary of staging the hearing by filling the courtroom with security and judicial officials. But judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi Rad denied the accusations.

Zahra Kazemi, who was 54, was taking photographs of protestors outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison in July 2003 when she was arrested by police. She was beaten to death in custody.

Despite holding Canadian and Iranian nationality, the Iranian government recognised her only as an Iranian citizen and the case has seriously strained relations between the two countries. Ottawa has accused the Iranian judiciary of a cover-up.

The Iranian government has acknowledged that Kazemi was beaten in prison although the judiciary has said that she may not have died due to the beatings but after a fall.

The ongoing case has been riddled with controversy and proceedings have been marred by diplomatic spats. Canada has been demanding the return of Kazemi's body so that it can carry out its own autopsy, but Iran has continually refused the request. Kazemi's body was quickly buried after her death. Kazemi's mother claimed she was pressurised into authorising the burial.

In July 2004 a reformist intelligence officer was tried for Kazemi's murder, but the officer was acquitted due to lack of evidence. Ebadi and Kazemi's family claimed he was simply being used as a scapegoat. They claim the real killer is a judiciary official.


The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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