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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Canadian journalist 'beaten to death'
Zahra Kazemi
Zahra Kazemi was arrested while taking photos of Evin prison
Iran has acknowledged that a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist was beaten to death after her arrest outside a prison in Tehran.

Vice President Ali Abtahi said Zahra Kazemi died "of a brain haemorrhage resulting from beatings".

Ms Kazemi, 54, was detained on 23 June for taking pictures of Tehran's Evin prison. She was later pronounced dead after falling into a coma

But officials in Tehran are still refusing to allow Canada to conduct its own investigation into the photographer's death.

"We are knowledgeable enough to examine the body and find out the cause of her death, so we will not allow foreign teams to investigate," Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian told the AFP news agency.

I examined the body myself and there were no bruises or cuts of the face
Massoud Pezeshkian
Health Minister
He agreed that Ms Kazemi's cause of death was a brain haemorrhage, but said the investigation was ongoing.

"I examined the body myself and there were no bruises or cuts of the face," Mr Pezeshkian said.

"We are going to examine the corpse again and I will view the report, and I have appointed a medical team to look into this case."

Strained relations

The Iranian authorities initially said Ms Kazemi had died of a stroke after falling ill during her first police interview.

Her relatives insisted she had been tortured and beaten into a coma by her interrogators.

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami ordered four ministers to investigate the death of the freelance photographer.

Relations between Tehran and Ottawa have become strained over the case.

Canadian deputy prime minister John Manley said on Monday that bilateral relations would be damaged if Ms Kazemi's body was not returned.

Stephan Hachemi
Stephan Hachemi wants an independent autopsy in Canada
But Iran's Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi-Lari said Ms Kazemi's death had nothing to do with Canada "since she is an Iranian citizen."

Ms Kazemi, who held an Iranian passport, was in Tehran to take pictures of the recent student protests for the British agency Camera Press.

Her son, Stephan Hachemi, 26, has demanded that her body be returned to Canada for an independent autopsy.

Mr Manley said Ms Kazemi's death had become "a very serious issue".

"We believe the family, of course, deserves a full explanation for what happened," he said.

"The body should be returned."

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