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Iran urged to review diplomatic ties with Canada

Tehran, May 23, IRNA -The National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament urged the government Sunday to review diplomatic ties with Canada as a spat between the two countries over the death of a female journalist widened.

In a statement, the committee said Ottawa was 'shedding crocodile tears' over Zahra Kazemi's death while a file relating to the death of an Iranian citizen at the hand of the Canadian police was gathering dust.

The panel also condemned 'the insulting statement of the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Pierre Pettigrew) against the Islamic Republic of Iran', after he charged that the Iranian justice system lacked the capacity to handle the case.

The committee called on the Iranian Foreign Ministry to 'seriously follow up the case relating to the murder of Iranian citizen Keyvan Tabesh who was unjustly killed by the Canadian police'.

"Canada which has the ugly murder of Keyvan Tabesh in its record is shedding crocodile tears for the death of Zahra Kazemi, which has been condemned by the Iranian government, with the Judiciary firmly following up the case," it said.

Pettigrew said this week that his country will further limit diplomatic contact with Iran to back demands for justice in the case of Kazemi.

"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," he said.

The parliamentary committee described the statements as 'contrary to the practice of the international relations', saying Iranian 'Foreign Ministry is required to scale down trade and economic cooperation (with Canada) and review diplomatic ties' with that country.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi, for his part, stressed that 'the case of Ms Kazemi is a domestic issue'. He said the Canadians were 'exploiting' the good will of Iran which has been cooperating with Ottawa over the case.

Asefi also dismissed allegations that a doctor who treated Zahra Kazemi in 2003 had been arrested.

The new charges has been made by Shahram Azam, a shady figure who has been described as a former Iranian military doctor, alleging to have seen signs of torture on Kazemi's body.

Azam, who 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.

Azam has reportedly made fresh allegations, charging that a man described as doctor Hadi Sepehrlou had been apprehended in his apartment in Tehran.

Asefi rejected the allegations as 'polluted with lies and fabrication which certain imposters are making in order to get refugee status in Canada'.

He described Shahram Azam as 'a person who managed to hoodwink Canadians with false statements'. "But it is not clear how long more the foreign countries would buy such scenarios," Asefi said.

Kazemi, 54, 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 following 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.

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." 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.

On Saturday, Iran hit back at Canada after the latter accused that the Iranian justice system lacked capacity to properly handle Kazemi's case.

"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 make such statements which are outside the international orders," he added.

Asked whether the Judiciary was ready to accept any costs which the trial may bring about for Iran, Karimi-Rad said, "We think our judicial apparatus issues its rulings bravely, justly and wisely and we will not be influenced by pressures and atmospherics."

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.

... Payvand News - 5/23/05 ... --

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