Charges laid in Kazemi case irrelevant, more action still needed

Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Two Canadian media groups are dismissing the questionable charges announced by the Iranian government against two of Zahra Kazemi's interrogators as irrelevant. They're calling on the Canadian government to demand an independent inquiry into the murder of the Canadian photojournalist while in an Iranian prison. Kazemi's remains should be immediately returned to her son in Montreal, as he wishes. The Canadian government should also increase the pressure on Iran, using all available means, to bring the true perpetrators of this cold-blooded crime to justice, the groups say. "Today, the journalistic community across Canada and beyond, represented by our two groups, is demanding our government push for true justice for this courageous woman and her family," says Paul Schneidereit, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. The murder of the 54-year-old journalist, arrested on June 23 while taking photographs of a public protest outside a prison near Tehran, did not happen in a vacuum and was not an isolated incident. Justice for Kazemi, who died July 10, will not come by simply charging a few of her interrogators with her death. Justice can only come from an independent inquiry that investigates all the questions that remain unanswered in her death, the media groups say. Charging low-level officials is an easy way out for the Iranian government, which has covered up similar crimes in the past by making scapegoats of a few minor officials. The real question is what role did Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran's chief prosecutor, have in Kazemi's death. Mortazavi is alleged to have beaten Kazemi and he controls who is charged. "Clearly there is a grievous conflict of interest regarding Saeed Mortazavi's role in this case," said Tariq Hassan-Gordon, Program Manager for the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, "It is imperative that the investigation into Kazemi's death be conducted by an independent third party." The groups also strongly question the handling of the case by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs. Iran has refused to provide answers to Canada. At the same time, the Canadian government has not been forceful enough in pressuring the Iranian government to return Kazemi's body to Canada or in demanding an independent inquiry. The situation is all the more perilous for many other Iranian journalists who remain in prison for their work. At least 22 journalists are still being held in Iran, making it one of the largest prisons for journalists in the world. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Canadian Association of Journalists demand the following: - Zahra Kazemi's remains be returned to Canada as wished by her son and his grandmother; - An independent inquiry into the murder and justice for the perpetrators of the offence; - The Canadian government aggressively pressure Iran to provide answers. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is an association of 400 journalists, editors, producers, publishers and citizens working to promote free expression and media freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information contact Tariq Hassan-Gordon at (416) 515-9622 or at cjfe@cjfe.org. The Canadian Association of Journalists is Canada's largest professional organization for journalists, with about 1,300 members across Canada. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide advocacy and professional development for its members, and public-interest advocacy. For more information contact Paul Schneidereit at (902) 426-1124 or at pauls@herald.ns.ca, Erica Johnson at (604) 662-6818 or John Dickins at (613) 526-8061 or (613) 290-2903.

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