A Tehran judge on Sunday abruptly ended the trial of an intelligence ministry agent accused of inflicting a deadly blow to the head of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi. Lawyers of the victim family said the investigation was incomplete, and the defendant’s lawyer said an interrogator from the judiciary was responsible for the blow. The judiciary barred diplomats and foreign journalists from the second day of the trial. July 18, 2004 – “I'm so angry I cannot speak. They didn’t even pay attention to our evidence and announced the end of the trial,” Novel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi said on Sunday to reporters, as she walked out from the courtroom where the trial of intelligence agent Mohammd-Reza Aqdam for killing her clients’ kin Zahra Kazemi.
Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, 54, died last July in the Evin prison of broken skull and hemorrhage, which, a presidential investigative panel said, was a result of the blows she had received during interrogation.
“This is not a fair trial. The case hasn't been reviewed. If they issue a verdict it will be unfair,” Ms. Ebadi said outside the Tehran criminal court on the second day of the trial, during which Ms. Ebadi and her colleagues tried to present evidence and quoted reports showing that other officials, notably from the Islamic government’s judiciary, may have been involved in Zahra Kazemi’s death.
Victim family’s lawyers also protested against the trial’s venue, and said the case must be tried as a murder at a higher, province-level penal court.
Foreign diplomats, including Canadian and Dutch envoys to Tehran, and foreign journalists, who attended the trial on Saturday, were barred from entering the courtroom on Sunday.
The defendant, whose trial resumed on Saturday after a nine-months break, and is charged with “semi-involuntary manslaughter,” maintained that he was innocent. He faces a maximum of three years in prison. His lawyer told the court that witnesses had seen the victim being hit on the head by a senior judicial official, identified as Mohammad Bakhshi.
The trial pits the judiciary against the intelligence ministry, Khatami’s reformist government against the conservatives in the intelligence and security forces and the judiciary, and pits the lawyers of the victim against the lawyers of the accused, and pits both sets of lawyers against the judge, who ended the trial abruptly, announced that verdict will be announced sometime next seek.
The Islamic government officials last week rejected Canada’s request to send three observers to the trial. They said Kazemi had entered Iran as an Iranian and her death in custody was an internal issue. But Kazemi’s death, the subsequent investigations and the trial a year after, places Canada and the Islamic government on two sides of a diplomatic row which may impact the two country’s trade and diplomatic relations.
Canada recalled its Tehran envoy last week, after the judiciary said Canadian diplomats could not attend the trial, but suspended the recall on Saturday, after Canadian ambassador Philip MacKinnon attended the trial.