Canada recalls ambassador over burial

Canada said on Wednesday it would recall its ambassador from Iran after authorities there buried an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died of injuries sustained while in police custody.

    Zahra Kazemi's burial in Shiraz went ahead despite Canadian protest

    Foreign Minister Bill Graham told state-owned CBC Newsworld television that the Canadian ambassador "will be back here before the week is out." 
      
    Zahra Kazemi, 54, was buried despite demands from her Montreal-based son, Stephan Hachemi, and the Canadian government that her remains be returned to Canada.

    Graham said: "We clearly want the remains of Madame Kazemi returned to Canada in accordance with the wishes of her family." 
      
    Tug of war

    However, in a letter published by the ISNA news agency late on Tuesday, Kazemi's mother, Ezzet, asked Iranian authorities to arrange for her daughter's burial in Shiraz.

    "Fate brought her back to the country which, although she was away from, she loved," she wrote in the letter. "I am announcing my official agreement for burying my daughter in the town where she was born."

    But last Saturday, Canadian embassy officials in Tehran Kazemi's mother had signed a statement consenting to her Montreal grandson's wishes for Kazemi's body to be buried in Canada.

    Canadian Foreign Affairs officials in Ottawa were still trying to confirm what exactly was agreed with Iranian officials, as was Philip MacKinnon, Canada's ambassador in Iran.

    Investigation necessary

    Referring to Iranian admissions that Kazemi had been beaten while in custody and had died from her mistreatment, Graham said: "We insist on getting to the bottom of that." 
      

    Stephan Hachemi had pressed
    Canada to bring his mother's
    remains to Montreal

    "And if it's confirmed that she died while in custody from a blow to her head … there must be somebody within their judicial and prison system who's responsible for that, and we want to get to the bottom of that and we are insisting that the government do that," Graham added.
      
    According to an Iranian government report, Kazemi, 54, was arrested outside the Evin prison 23 June while taking photographs of relatives of those arrested during a riot.
     
    While in custody, the journalist was interrogated for more than three days, at some point receiving "a blow by a hard object," which broke her skull and caused a brain hemorrhage. She died 10 July, the report said.

    The report, commissioned by the pro-reform president Mohammad Khatami and released Sunday, failed to pinpoint how Kazemi was hurt.

    It said further investigation was needed to identify who may have caused her death.

    Criticism of prosecutor

    Meanwhile, Iranian politicians who advocate reforms denounced the appointment of Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to lead the inquiry into her death, for which some blame him.

    The lack of a culprit or culprits is the report's biggest failing, said Sara Mirzakani, vice-president of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights in Iran.

    She criticised the naming of Mortazavi to lead the inquiry into Kazemi's death.

    Reform supporters accused him of being unfit to lead the investigation because of his role in Kazemi's arrest and initial interrogation.
     
    The Committee also accuse him of being responsible for an initial government announcement that Kazemi had died of a stroke.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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