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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Iran points to journalist 'murder'
Zahra Kazemi
The Canadian-Iranian journalist died after being arrested in Tehran

Iran's Vice-President, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, has said Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who died in custody in Iran, was probably murdered.

The Iranian authorities have already said the journalist was beaten to death after being arrested for taking photographs outside a prison in Tehran, but these latest comments appear to go further.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr Abtahi said: "The high possibility is that her murder was caused by a haemorrhage caused by a blow."

The development comes as an Iranian newspaper reported the mother of Ms Kazemi as saying she had been forced against her will to agree to her daughter's burial in Iran.

Execution call

Ezzet Kazemi told the Yas-e No newspaper she was pressured to agree to a burial in Iran because the Iranian authorities wanted to get rid of the body as quickly as possible.

"I don't know what the reason for her death was, only God knows," Mrs Kazemi said.

"All I want is for the killer of my daughter to suffer the same fate as my child. I want this person to be executed."

Zahra Kazemi, 54, was detained on 23 June for taking pictures of Tehran's Evin prison.

She died in hospital in Tehran on 10 July after falling into a coma having received head injuries during more than three days of interrogation.

The coffin of Zahra Kazemi being carried by Iranians in Shiraz
The journalist's burial in Iran sparked anger in Canada

An Iranian report said she died in custody from a severe blow to the head that fractured her skull and caused a brain haemorrhage.

Five officers were arrested last Saturday following "comprehensive investigations" into Ms Kazemi's death.

The photojournalist's death led to a diplomatic row between Ottawa and Tehran.

Canadian authorities expressed concern over Ms Kazemi's burial at her birthplace in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. They wanted her body returned to Canada.

At one point, an outraged Canada recalled its ambassador to Tehran and said it would review bilateral ties with the Islamic republic.

There was also anger in Tehran when Iranian Keyvan Tabesh, 18, was shot dead near Vancouver on 14 July.

Iran summoned Canada's charge d'affaires in Tehran to protest against the shooting.

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