Tehran, July 21 (Reuters): Reformist Iranian politicians and clerics criticised today a government inquiry into a Canadian journalist’s death in custody this month and called for a deeper probe to find out how she died and who was responsible.
A government report, released late yesterday, said Zahra Kazemi, 54, a Montreal-based journalist of Iranian descent, had died from a severe blow to the head that fractured her skull and caused a brain haemorrhage. The inquiry is seen as a key test of President Mohammad Khatami’s ability to shed light on Iran’s shadowy security services and take on hard-line opponents in the judiciary.
Kazemi died on July 10, more than two weeks after she was arrested outside Tehran’s Evin prison for taking photographs. She was never formally charged with any crime. But the inquiry, which took nearly a week to prepare and was commissioned by Khatami, stopped short of saying the blow to Kazemi’s head was deliberate and failed to identify who had been with the journalist when the blow occurred.
Reformist politicians, who say Kazemi’s death highlights the need to tackle parallel security bodies controlled by hardliners opposed to any watering down of Iran’s Islamic theocracy, said the report pulled too many punches. “It should be clarified who was responsible for the blow to Kazemi’s brain,” said reformist MP Reza Yousefian.
“As long as there are parallel (security) organisations this situation will continue and nobody can guarantee that such events will not happen,” he told the ISNA students’ news agency.
Ottawa reacted coolly to the report and reminded Iran that it took the case very seriously.
“There are many questions left unanswered, including how she came to suffer a blow to the head and in whose care she was at that time,” said foreign ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron.
“Our bilateral relations will be affected by the cooperation shown to the government of Canada by Iran over her case.”
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi described the inquiry as “serious and transparent”.