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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 21:04 GMT 22:04 UK
Agent charged over journalist death
Zahra Kazemi
Zahra Kazemi: Held after taking photographs
An Iranian judge has charged an intelligence ministry interrogator with the killing of a Canadian-Iranian journalist.

Zahra Kazemi died two months ago after suffering fatal head injuries while in custody.

Judge Javad Esmaeili, who has been heading an independent inquiry into her death, charged the official with "semi-premeditated murder", according to a prosecutor's office statement.

There was no immediate explanation of the charge.

The agent, whose identity has not been revealed, was one of two intelligence ministry officials who had already been charged over Kazemi's death.

But earlier this month, the prosecutor's office rejected the charges and called for further investigations.

In its statement, released on Monday, the prosecutor's office said: "The crime is attributed to one of the interrogators and the reasons have been presented in the lawsuit against the accused."

It added that the judge had also concluded that no government body was behind the crime.

Power struggle

Kazemi, 54, died three weeks after being detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests.

A frame grab from Iranian TV shows Iranians carrying the coffin of Zahra Kazemi
Kazemi was buried despite calls for her body to be returned to Canada
Her death intensified the political struggle in Iran between President Mohammad Khatami's reformist allies and hardline supporters of clerical rule.

Initially, hardline Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi said Kazemi had died of a stroke.

A presidential-appointed committee discredited this version of events, finding that she had died of head injuries sustained while in custody.

The affair led to Canada withdrawing its ambassador from Iran in protest.

There was further anger after the journalist's body was buried in her birthplace, the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, against the wishes of Canadian authorities and her son, who lives in Montreal.

Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, described the latest development move as a "manipulation by the Iranian Government".

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