Government agent acquitted in photographer’s death

New York, July 26, 2004—An intelligence agent charged with killing Canadian-Iranian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi in July 2003 was acquitted on Saturday, July 24.

Citing insufficient evidence, an Iranian court acquitted Agent Mohamed Reza Aqdam Ahmadi of the “semi-intentional murder” of Kazemi, who died while in official custody last year after she was detained for taking photographs outside Tehran’s Evin Prison.

The trial, which began on July 17, was abruptly ended the following day. Kazemi’s legal team, headed by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, accused the court of refusing to hear witness testimony and to consider evidence accusing another prison official of delivering the fatal blow that killed Kazemi.

“We introduced some witnesses and called on the court to summon them and to listen to their comments, but none of them were taken into consideration,” Reuters news agency quoted Ebadi as saying on Saturday. She added that “if they had been heeded, those who committed this crime … would have been identified.”

Ebadi said she would appeal the verdict in Iranian courts, but that if justice is denied, they will have no choice but to take the case “to international courts and the United Nations.”

“A year after Zahra Kazemi’s death, her killers remain free,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Those responsible for this dreadful crime must be brought to justice.”

Kazemi, a contributor to the Montreal-based magazine Recto Verso and the London-based photo agency Camera Press, was detained on June 23, 2003, while taking photographs outside Tehran’s Evin Prison. She was taken to Baghiatollah Hospital after being held in government custody for nearly two weeks and died on July 10.

For days following Kazemi’s death, some Iranian officials maintained that the journalist died of a stroke. But on July 16, 2003, Vice President Mohammed Ali Abtahi announced that the cause of death was a “brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings.” A government inquiry released in late July 2003 concluded that Kazemi had died as a result of a skull fracture likely caused by a blow to her head.