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Journalists' Group Calls for Investigation Into Canadian-Iranian Reporter's Death - 2003-07-17

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for a full and transparent investigation in the death of Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in a Tehran hospital while in government custody.

Ms. Kazemi was arrested outside of a Tehran prison on June 23. She was taking photographs while protestors were demonstrating for the release of dissidents held in the Evin prison. Ms. Kazemi had permission to work in Iran. Iranian officials say she complained of poor health, and she was later taken to a hospital, where she died last Friday.

Relatives and friends of Ms. Kazemi have alleged that the journalist died as a result of mistreatment while in government custody.

On Thursday the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement as a follow-up to its protest letter early this week.

"We are calling for a full and transparent investigation of the circumstances surrounding Zahra Kazami's death in Iran," said Abi Wright, a spokesperson of the Committee. "There have been conflicting statements from the Iranian government. Just yesterday the vice president told reporters that Kazemi died after a blow to her head. But other government officials including the foreign minister have said that she may have died from a fall, or from injuries sustained during a fall. If the cause of her death was a blow to her head occurred during her detention after she was arrested on June 23, we want the guilty parties brought to justice."

The Committe is urging Iranian authorities to conduct an immediate, independent autopsy. The group is also investigating reports that at least six other Iranian journalists have been detained during the last few days.