| Zahra Kazemi
Tehran, July 30 (Reuters): Iran today acknowledged that Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in custody in Iran this month, was probably murdered.
ďThe high possibility is that her murder was caused by a haemorrhage caused by a blow,Ē vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi said after a cabinet meeting. Abtahi had hinted as much two weeks ago, but since then an initial government inquiry left open whether a blow to Kazemiís skull had been deliberate or accidental. The Montreal-based journalist, 54, who was of Iranian descent, died on July 10, more than two weeks after her arrest for taking pictures outside a Tehran prison.
Her death has strained diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Tehran and cast a spotlight on Iranís shadowy security services and treatment of the media.
Iranís ability to unravel the case and punish the culprits is seen as a key test of reformist President Mohammad Khatamiís struggle to exert his authority over hardline rivals who control the judiciary and other powerful state institutions.
An initial government inquiry into the three days Kazemi spent under interrogation and arrest did not establish who may have caused the blow to Kazemiís skull. Some hardline commentators in Iran speculated her injury was caused by an accident, such as falling over, or was self-inflicted. But health minister Masoud Pezeshkian told the official Irna news agency that examinations suggested the fracture to her skull could not have been caused ďby falling down or normal impact of the head against an object.Ē
Interior minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said the investigating judge had requested the detention of the five people who were in contact with Kazemi before her death.
Kazemiís mother was quoted today as saying she had agreed to bury her daughter in Iran against her will. In an interview with the Yas-e No newspaper, Ezzet Kazemi said she had signed a statement at the Canadian embassy agreeing to let her daughterís body to be taken to Canada, where Kazemiís son and the Canadian government had demanded its return.
But, while staying with the mother of one of her daughterís friends in Tehran, she received nightly visits from people who used threats and promises to get her to change her mind, she said, without identifying them. ďI had no other choice. I didnít have money, I was alone and I had no other place to go...They wanted the burial to take place as soon as possible. They wanted to get rid of it (the body),Ē she added.
Abtahi and Mousavi-Lari declined to comment on Ezzet Kazemiís remarks about the burial. Iran had said the decision to bury Kazemi in her birthplace in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz accorded with her motherís wishes. The decision outraged Canada which recalled its ambassador to Tehran and said it would review its ties with the Islamic republic.
Kazemi said she had flown to Tehran from Shiraz, where she lives, immediately after she was informed of her daughterís arrest.
She was eventually taken to see her daughter who was lying in a coma in a hospital run by the Revolutionary Guards.
Kazemi said she had noticed heavy bruising on one of her daughterís thighs and her hands. When she inquired about this, she was told it was due to injections her daughter had received. ďI donít know what the reason for her death was. All I want is for the killer of my daughter to suffer the same fate as my child. I want this person to be executed,Ē she said.
Mousavi-Lari said three post-mortems had stated that there were no injuries to Kazemiís body other than the skull fracture.