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Iran raps Canada for 'extrajudicial' stance over Zahra Kazemi's case

Tehran, May 22, IRNA-Iran hit back at Canada Saturday after the latter accused that the Iranian justice system lacked capacity to properly handle the case of late photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

"No country should ever allow itself to make such a judgment about the judicial system of another country," Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad told reporters here.

"While a final verdict has not been issued yet, how can a country take such statements which are outside the international orders," he added.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said this week that his country will further limit diplomatic contact with Iran to back demands for justice in the case of Kazemi, according to the Associated Press.

"We have decided to constrain our bilateral relations with Iran until Iranian authorities are prepared to deal with this affair in a serious and credible manner," Pettigrew said.

Karimi-Rad roundly countered the statements. "We think our judicial apparatus issues its rulings bravely, justly and wisely and we will not be influenced by pressures and atmospherics," he said when asked if the Judiciary was ready to accept any costs which the trial could entail in.

The official also dismissed Canada's allegations that an Iranian appeals court had given cursory hearing to submissions from Kazemi family lawyers asking for a new investigation into the death.

The appeals hearing on May 16 was in fact 'a session to receive the Kazemi family lawyers' explanations regarding certain ambiguities which need to be removed', he said, adding 'the actual session will be held on July 25'.

"The file is taking its normal if the Canadian government seeks the execution of justice regarding the case of an Iranian citizen, it must know that resorting to threats and perturbing the healthy atmosphere of the trial is not appropriate," Karimi-Rad 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 from Evin prison in Tehran.

Several days later, she was pronounced dead.

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.

Last month, Iran chided Canada for adopting a 'wrong approach' toward Kazemi's death, blaming the country for complications in this regard.

"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.

Ottawa has called for an independent investigation into the death of the Iranian journalist, 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 was an Iranian, whose case is a state affair and it is the Judiciary which has to answer their (Canadians') demands." The demands 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 consistent with 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, has stressed that she has never seen Azam nor known him.

"I have never seen such a person or known him," Ebadi told IRNA last month.

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

Kazemi's death coincided with the Canadian police's attack on three Iranian nationals in Vancouver, in which Keyvan Tabesh was killed and Amir Aqaie injured. The attack was met by a news blackout in Canada.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Karimi-Rad rejected press reports that a woman on trial for adultery and murder had been sentenced to death by stoning.

"The news in the domestic newspapers about the sentencing of a woman to death by stoning is not true," he said when asked about reports that the women had confessed to having sex with a man outside wedlock and killed her lover with the help of her husband.

... Payvand News - 5/22/05 ... --

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