Canada: Iran Promises Open Trial in Slain Journalist Case

Canada's foreign minister said Tuesday his Iranian counterpart assured him that an open trial will be held for the suspect in the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi (search).

Bill Graham met with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi at the United Nations (search), where both were attending the opening of the General Assembly.

Kazemi, 54, a Canadian of Iranian origin, died while in custody in Tehran (search). An Iranian Judge issued an indictment Monday that charged an unnamed Intelligence Ministry interrogator with "semi-premeditated murder."

Graham said Kharazzi told him that Canadian officials and Kazemi's family could take part in the trial.

"I am assured there will be a trial, an open trial, and we will be able to participate," he said, adding that no date for the trial has been set.

Kazemi was detained in June after taking photos outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests. After 77 hours of interrogation, she was rushed to a hospital's intensive care unit, where she died 14 days later.

Her case has become part of the power struggle in Iran between hard-liners and reformists.

Hard-line Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, initially said Kazemi died of a stroke. But a presidential-appointed committee discredited this version and concluded she died of head injuries sustained while in custody.

Intelligence Ministry officials have denied their officials were responsible, claiming a judicial official assaulted Kazemi.

Canada threatened sanctions and withdrew its ambassador after the photojournalist's body was buried in Iran against the wishes of Canadian authorities and her son, who lives in Montreal.

In a separate case, Graham said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia has rejected Canada's request for an investigation of allegations that a Canadian man was tortured while in Saudi custody for more than two years.

William Sampson says he was beaten, deprived of sleep and suspended upside down to force him to make a false confession for a car bombing in Riyadh that killed one person. Sampson was sentenced to death in the case, then set free last month along with five Britons and a Belgian also implicated.

A diplomatic note from the Saudi government, received Monday by Canada, rejected the request for an investigation but said Sampson could lodge a complaint, Graham said.

The note said Sampson was pardoned, despite his guilt, to maintain good relations with Canada. Sampson denies any role in the bombing.