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Iranian’s killing in Canada worsens row

Tehran, July 24 (Reuters): Iran today accused Canadian police of the “criminal” killing of an Iranian, ratcheting up a diplomatic row that began with the death in Iranian custody of a Canadian journalist this month.

Iranian state media said Canadian police in Vancouver had attacked three young Iranians, killing one and injuring one of the others. It identified the dead man as Keyvan Tabesh and demanded those responsible be brought to justice. Iran and Canada are at odds over the death in Tehran this month of Zahra Kazemi, 54, a Canadian photojournalist of Iranian descent. Canada recalled its envoy to Tehran over the incident and said it would review its ties with Iran.

“Why have Canadian police, who should safeguard the security of the people, committed this disgraceful crime which scared Iranian citizens living in Canada'” it quoted foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.

There was no immediate comment from Canada.

Iran’s state media said the Vancouver incident happened on Tuesday. But Canadian media have reported that Tabesh, 18, was shot and killed by a policeman in the Port Moody suburb of Vancouver on July 14 after an apparent road-rage incident.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper in a July 18 article said Tabesh’s parents, who live in Vancouver, had strongly criticised police for the shooting of their son. The newspaper said Tabesh was brandishing a machete when he was shot.

“Iran wants the Canadian government to give an explicit and transparent and satisfactory explanation about this criminal act and to hand over those responsible for this regrettable event to justice,” the Iranian spokesperson said, according to the radio. His call echoed that of the Canadian government for Tehran to identify and punish those responsible for Kazemi’s death. An initial Iranian inquiry said Kazemi died of a brain haemorrhage caused by a severe blow to the head. But it failed to determine whether the blow to her head was deliberate and who might be responsible.

A further investigation has been ordered.

The official Irna news agency quoted Asefi as saying Canadian media had censored the Vancouver incident. “The strong censorship of this story creates more ambiguities,” it quoted him as saying.

Kazemi was buried yesterday in Iran against the wishes of her son. Canada, which insisted the body should be returned to Kazemi’s home city of Montreal, condemned the burial and said ambassador Philip MacKinnon was being recalled.

The journalist died on July 10, more than two weeks after she was arrested for taking pictures outside a prison in Tehran where many political dissidents are held.

The European Union and Canada have called on Iran to prosecute those responsible for her death. Officials in the Islamic republic have to explain the precise circumstances of Kazemi’s death.

Kazemi's case has sparked a major political row in Iran, with reformist allies of President Mohammad Khatami saying it highlighted the operation of shadowy security services outside the government's control.

Iran's state media said Kazemi was buried in Iran in accordance with her 75-year-old mother's wishes. But Kazemi's son, who lives in Canada, said his grandmother told him she had been“forced” by Iranian authorities to authorise the burial.

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