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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 10:33 GMT
Iran reformists denounce judges

By Jim Muir
BBC correspondent in Tehran

A commission of the reformist-dominated parliament in Iran has called for a judicial investigation into the Tehran prosecutor's role in the case of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian journalist who died in July from a blow to the head after being arrested in June.

Zahra Kazemi
Zahra Kazemi's death sparked a feud between reformists and hardliners
The case has stirred bitter recriminations between the hardline judiciary and reformist bodies.

Although it has gone to trial, President Mohammed Khatami has publicly criticised the way the case has been handled by the judiciary.

The long-awaited report by the parliament's Article 90 Commission, which deals with press freedoms, was read out in the chamber despite objections from right-wingers.

It recited a litany of what it portrayed as irregularities and abuses by the Teheran prosecutor, Judge Saeed Mortazavi.

Iran's largely reformist parliament is essentially accusing the judiciary of perverting the course of justice
It accused him of tampering with evidence, suborning witnesses and subverting the course of the investigation in many other ways.

It said he had also refused to appear before the commission itself, which was a violation of the constitution.

It concluded by referring its own report to the special disciplinary court for judges, calling for an investigation into what it called the violations by the Teheran prosecutor and by other judges who it said had acted illegally in the case.

Fuelling tensions

It's an extraordinary situation in which Iran's largely reformist parliament is essentially accusing the judiciary of perverting the course of justice in a case which has already gone to trial.

The death of Zahra Kazemi has greatly aggravated tensions between reformists and the hardliners who call the shots at the judiciary and publication of the commission's report is likely to add further fuel to the fire.

An interrogator of the Intelligence Ministry, which is largely reformist these days, appeared in court three weeks ago accused of the quasi-intentional killing of Mrs Kazemi - a charge he vigorously denied.

Just one day after the trial began, President Khatami himself publicly questioned the way the case was being handled and also hinted that the Teheran prosecutor's role should be examined.

Right-wingers who tried to stop the commission's report being read out in parliament argued that it would damage the country's image.

But the Speaker ruled that the case had already done that and that nothing could be gained by trying to cover it up at this stage.




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