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Canadian Journalist in Iranian Custody was Probably Murdered, says Tehran Official

Iran's vice president said Wednesday that a Canadian journalist, who died while in custody in Tehran earlier this month, was probably murdered. He was basing his remarks on the results of an investigation ordered by Iran's president.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi Wednesday used the word murder when he said the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was caused by a blow to her head.

The vice president, referring to the results of an investigation ordered by President Mohammad Khatami, said the most likely cause of Ms. Kazemi's murder was a blow to the head that resulted in internal bleeding.

Ms. Kazemi, a 54-year-old Montreal-based photographer, was arrested June 23rd while taking pictures of a demonstration outside a prison in Tehran.

Three days after her arrest she was taken to a hospital in Tehran where she died July 10.

Initially, Iranian authorities said Ms. Kazemi, who was of Iranian decent, had died as the result of a stroke.

Later, Iranian commentators speculated the death of the journalist was accidental. But, Iran's health minister, Masoud Pezeshkian, told reporters Wednesday the fracture to Ms. Kazemi's skull could not have been caused by an accident.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said on Wednesday that the investigating judge in the case has requested that five people who were in contact with Ms. Kazemi before her death, be taken into custody.

Ms. Kazemi's son and the Canadian government had demanded that Iran return Ms. Kazemi's body to Canada. Instead, Iranian authorities ordered that the journalist be buried in Iran. The decision outraged Canadian officials who recalled the country's ambassador to Tehran and said they would review Canada-Iran relations.