Doctor says journalist in Iranian custody was tortured and raped before her death

New York, April 1, 2005—
Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was tortured and raped during her detention in Iran, claims a former Iranian army doctor.

The doctor, Shahram Azam, says that he was the first to examine Kazemi in a Tehran hospital before her death on July 10, 2003. His allegations were presented yesterday at a press conference in Ottawa, Canada, where he was recently granted asylum.

According to the Associated Press, Azam recalled that Kazemi had a fractured skull, several smashed and broken bones, missing fingernails, deep scratches on her back and evidence of a flogging. As a male doctor in a military hospital, he was not permitted to examine Kazemi’s genitals, but he said that the nurse who did claimed that there was severe damage.

Kazemi, a contributor to the Montreal-based magazine Recto Verso and the London-based photo agency Camera Press, was moved to Tehran’s Baghiatollah hospital a few days after her detention on June 23, 2003. She was arrested for taking photographs outside Tehran’s infamous Evin prison. Authorities initially claimed that she was taken to the hospital because of stomach problems, but when she died, some Iranian authorities claimed the cause of death was stroke.

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.

Intelligence agent Mohamed Reza Aqdam Ahmadi was subsequently charged with “semi-intentional murder” in Kazemi’s case. Citing insufficient evidence, an Iranian court acquitted Aqdam Ahmadi on Saturday, July 24.

“Based on this new evidence, Iranian authorities should reopen the investigation into Kazemi’s apparent murder,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Azam’s testimony suggests that Iranian authorities tortured, brutalized, and murdered Kazemi, then covered up the truth.”