Canada recalls ambassador to Iran to protest journalist's death

TEHRAN, Iran -- Canada recalled its ambassador Wednesday to protest how Iran was dealing with the death of an Iranian-Canadian journalist after hours of police interrogation -- a death Iran's reformers have blamed on hard-line officials.

Zahra Kazemi was buried Wednesday in her birthplace, the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, against the wishes of her son, who lives in Montreal, and the Canadian government.

The burial occurred in a private cemetery amid tight security, attended by 60 relatives and about 70 officials -- mostly plainclothes security agents -- witnesses said. Armed security barred journalists from talking to Kazemi's relatives, witnesses said.

In Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said the ambassador will leave Iran within the week. He said Canada was considering other measures, including trade sanctions, to pressure Iran to exhume Kazemi's body and send it to Canada.

"We want to have Madame Kazemi's remains returned to Canada in accordance with the wishes of her family," Graham said. "In addition of course we want to make sure there is a full, open and transparent process whereby we can determine who is responsible for her death."

The state-run news agency IRNA said Tuesday it received a letter from Kazemi's mother saying she wanted her daughter buried in Shiraz "to prevent any misuse of the tragic incident."

But Kazemi's only child, Stephan Hachemi, said earlier his grandmother told him she was being pressured by Iranian officials into agreeing that the body be buried in Iran.

Officials had tried to bury Kazemi quietly after her July 10 death, saying she died of a stroke, but were stopped by presidential investigators. The vice president then said Kazemi died of a beating.

The 54-year-old Kazemi's death has become the latest bitter dispute between hard-liners and reformists struggling for power in Iran. Reformers have called for the ouster and prosecution of other hard-liners they hold responsible for her death.

Kazemi died nearly three weeks after being detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during last month's student-led protests. After 77 hours of interrogation, she was rushed to an intensive care unit in a hospital controlled by the hard-line Revolutionary Guards, where she died 14 days later.

The presidential committee that investigated the death said Kazemi had complained of punishment from her guards and died of a fractured skull.

Graham said Kazemi died "while in custody from a blow to her head. This clearly is an indication there must be somebody within their judicial or prison system who is responsible for that blow, and we want to get to the bottom of that and we're expecting (Iranian officials) to do that."

Iran's pro-reform president, Mohammad Khatami, called for an open trial of those behind the death.

"Any person who is a culprit anywhere should be punished and the issue clarified," Khatami told reporters.

The president said he demanded that the head of Iran's hard-line judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, conduct an "impartial" judicial inquiry into the case.

Iran's Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said Wednesday the presidential committee's investigation showed that Kazemi did not die a natural death, and the judiciary should now "make clear whether it was a crime or a mishap."

The judiciary named Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to lead the investigation into Kazemi's death. Reformers, who accuse Mortazavi of a role in the death and of trying to cover it up, denounced the appointment. Mortazavi controls the police and prosecutors who interrogated Kazemi.

Khatami said Wednesday it was "natural procedure" to refer the case to Mortazavi's office and insisted that Shahroudi told him the judiciary "will refer the case to an independent investigator."

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said the inquiry has been referred to the Tehran military court, state-run Tehran radio reported.