A member of the slain photojournalist Zahra Kazemi family’s defense team Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah tells Radio Farda that the judiciary is by law obligated to reconvene the trial, even though the family and its legal team walked out of the court on Sunday in protest against the judge’s decision to abruptly end the trial. July 20, 2004 - A Tehran criminal court which on Sunday abruptly ended the trial of an intelligence ministry agent for killing Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, does not have jurisdiction over murder cases,” according to Tehran-based lawyer and human rights advocate Mohammad-Ali Dadkhah who is a member of the Zahra Kazemi family’s legal team.
“This was a murder case, which has to be tried in a province-level five-judge penal court,” he adds.
Zahra Kazemi, who was arrested in June 2003 for taking pictures of prisoners’ relatives gathered outside the Evin prison, died on July 10, 2003, of blows to her head during interrogation. The judiciary indicted intelligence agent Mohammad-Reza Aqdam-Ahmadi with “semi-involuntary manslaughter,” which has a maximum penalty of three years in jail.
The victim family lawyers and human rights advocates faulted the judiciary’s investigation, and said the defendant was only a scapegoat, protecting other higher level officials. The defendant’s lawyers said witnesses had seen a judiciary official beating Kazemi over the head.
Dadkhah says it is regrettable that the judge refused to rule on the lawyers’ motion against the court’s jurisdiction. “The lawyers and victim’s relatives’ decision to walk out of the court does not eliminate their right to a fair trial,” Dadkhah adds. “The court is by law obliged to reconvene the proceedings with the presence of the family and its lawyers in order to announce its verdict,” he adds.
“The law requires the prosecutor to investigate other suspects in the case,” he says, adding that the lawyers motioned the court to summon Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi for questioning, but the judge denied the motion.
“Since members of the prosecution team are under suspicion, we suggested naming a special investigator to review the case and announce his finding to the public,” he adds. “This is no longer just a national case, because, due to the Canada’s involvement, the case has assumed international status, and should proceed in a manner suitable to a nation that has historically pioneered rule of law and justice” Dadkhah says.