Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Canadian ambassador recalled amid trial dispute

WAR OF WORDS Ottawa upped the diplomatic stakes after Iran barred observers from the trial of an accused killer of an Iranian-Canadian journalist

AFP , Ottawa

Canada on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Iran, raising the stakes in what had been a war of words over Tehran's decision to bar observers from the trial of the accused killer of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi.

Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said he was recalling Ottawa's ambassador to Tehran, Philip MacKinnon, and was summoning Iran's ambassador to Ottawa, S.M. Ali Mousavi, to make clear Canada's displeasure at Iran's decision to ban Canadian observers from the trial.

Graham told reporters he was considering other measures to push Tehran to accept Canadian demands.

"We were informed by Iran this morning of their intention not to let Canadian observers at the trial," Graham said.

"This is completely unacceptable," he added, while accompanied by Kazemi's son, Stephan Hashemi.

"There should be a public trial to see that justice is done," he said.

Tehran's decision to ban Canadian observers, Graham claimed, contravened its pledge for a full and open trial.

The case involved "the death of a Canadian journalist in Iran," and Canada had the right to see justice being done, he said.

"This is not the case in a secret trial," he said. "We do not accept the position of Iran."

Iran has already told Ottawa to mind its own business.

"Iran does not feel at all obliged to accept the presence of Canadian observers in this trial," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said of the high-profile case.

He branded Graham's earlier complaints as "unacceptable" and "against all international principles and laws," but did not rule out that Canadian diplomats may be allowed to attend.

"The case is a domestic issue which is being taken care of by the Islamic Republic of Iran's judiciary, and the government is seriously following the case to see a fair trial and justice done," he asserted.

Iranian intelligence agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi faces the charge of "semi-intentional murder," a year after Kazemi died from injuries sustained while in custody in Tehran.

According to an official report, the 54-year-old photographer was hit on the head by a blunt object -- reportedly a shoe -- while being interrogated. She died in hospital on July 10 last year from a brain hemorrhage.

She had been arrested for taking pictures outside Tehran's notorious Evin prison, which at the time was packed with thousands of protesters from last summer's anti-regime demonstrations.

Back in Ottawa, when asked if Canada would take Iran to the International Court of Justice, Graham said: "That is a possibility. But there are problems."

The main problem, he said, was that "all sides must agree" to the court's jurisdiction.

Asked about possible economic sanctions against Iran, he said: "It is time to consider everything. We have to look at what can be effective."

Hashemi interjected: "Economic sanctions can harm the people more than the government."

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