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Iran: Tehran Urged To Do More To Explain Journalist's Death

Tehran, 14 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Relatives and colleagues of an Iranian-born Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, who died after being interrogated by the Iranian intelligence services, have accused Iran of a cover-up. Kazemi was arrested in Tehran last month after taking pictures of Evin Prison. She apparently suffered a fatal stroke after having been interrogated by the Iranian intelligence services. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has ordered an inquiry into the death.

Yesterday, the president of the Canadian branch of Reporters Without Borders, Tatyana Churchmuch, said in Vancouver that the inquiry was unlikely to be sufficiently independent.

"The fact that the Iranian government says it wants to lead its own investigation, perhaps we can see that as a slight, slight step in the right direction, but for us at Reporters Without Borders, it's far from being sufficient. It would be like having a prisoner being held by Montreal police who dies in custody and having the Montreal police investigate. It's not the right way to do things. You need somebody that's independent, outside, that's not involved with what happened to do the investigation," Churchmuch said.

Kazemi's son Stephan Hachemi, also speaking in Vancouver, yesterday said he believes his mother was tortured to death. He said he has asked Canadian authorities to repatriate Kazemi's body. Iran says the body will be buried in Iran.

A spokesman for Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has said Ottawa will insist that Iran clarify the circumstances of Kazemi's death.