16 July 2003
CJFE calls for independent investigation into journalist's death, despite government's admission that she died after being beaten
(CJFE/IFEX) - The following is a CJFE press release:
Iran's Admission Not Enough: CJFE
July 16, 2003 -- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) said today that despite the latest admissions by the Government of Iran, it remains necessary to hold an independent investigation into the killing of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.
"Iranian authorities at first said Ms. Kazemi had suffered a stroke while in custody," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said. "Now they admit she died after being beaten. This piecemeal process is unacceptable. What else are they concealing from the world?
"The Iranian government must allow the return of her body to Canada, in accordance with the wishes of her son, so that an independent autopsy can be conducted to establish the full truth about what happened to the journalist."
Zahra Kazemi, a 54-year-old Canadian citizen originally from Iran, was arrested on or about June 23 by Iranian security officers as she took photos of a prison in Tehran where protesters had been incarcerated following recent student protests. She lapsed into a coma sometime afterwards and was reported dead last Friday.
Today, Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said: "According to a report by the health minister she has died of a brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings."
Also today, a report by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said that "anyone deemed responsible ... would be brought to justice." CJFE welcomes this commitment and will monitor whether Iran keeps its promise. But the same report also quoted government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh as saying that "since [Ms. Kazemi] is an Iranian, no country has the right to seek the transfer of her body."
"Everyone who values press freedom must demand that Iran act in good faith and let the truth about this savage crime emerge," Ruimy said. "We especially call on the Canadian government to forcefully press Iran to allow the return of Ms. Kazemi's body to this country."
CJFE is an association of 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others working to preserve and promote press freedom and free expression in Canada and around the world.