TEHRAN, Iran – Iran (search) on Tuesday rejected Canada's (search) demand that it allow an international team of forensic scientists to examine the corpse of a photojournalist who died in Iranian custody.
Zahra Kazemi (search), a 54-year-old Canadian photographer of Iranian origin, died in July 2003, several days after being arrested for taking photos of a demonstration outside a Tehran prison.
Hard-line authorities said she died of a stroke, but a commission appointed by Iran's president found Kazemi died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage that were caused by the impact of a hard object. Iranian reformists have said she was tortured to death.
A doctor who claims to have examined Kazemi in hospital, Shahram Azam, said her body bore injuries consistent with torture and rape. His allegation prompted Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigre w to demand an international forensic examination.
"Such a demand does not conform with Iranian laws or international regulations," the spokesman for Iran's judges, Jamal Karimirad, told reporters Tuesday.
"Kazemi was an Iranian citizen. Although she also had Canadian nationality, under Iran's laws, an additional citizenship doesn't negate her Iranian nationality. Therefore, Iran's judiciary is competent to carry out the investigation," Karimirad said.
Azam spoke about Kazemi's injuries after moving to Canada. He said he examined Kazemi in a Tehran hospital emergency ward after she was transferred from Evin prison. On Tuesday, Karimirad denied Azam had examined Kazemi. He dismissed Azam's comments as "baseless and false" and hinted they were made to gain political asylum in Canada.
Last year, an Iranian court acquitted secret agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi of killing Kazemi. Lawyers representing Kazemi's relatives have conceded that Ahmadi was not guilty. They believe Kazemi was beaten to death by a hard-line prison official.