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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Iranian agent cleared over death
Zahra Kazemi
Kazemi died of head injuries in custody
An Iranian court has cleared an intelligence agent accused of killing an Iranian-Canadian photographer.

The victim's lawyer told the BBC that the court had found no proof to convict the agent, Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi.

The photographer, Zahra Kazemi, died in custody last year after being arrested taking pictures outside a prison in the capital, Tehran.

The case soured relations between Iran and Canada and Ottawa recalled its ambassador in protest.

Iran refused to allow Canadian diplomats to attend the closed-door hearing where Mr Ahmadi was accused of "semi-intentional murder". It abruptly ended the trial after two days earlier this month.

The case also deepened the rift between Iran's reformist government and the hardline judiciary, with both sides accusing the other of a cover-up.

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami said he believed Mr Ahmadi was innocent and called on the judiciary to identify "the real guilty person".

Review demanded

The BBC's Miranda Eeles in Tehran says lawyers acting for the Kazemi family say they now have 20 days to appeal.

They are calling for the judiciary to appoint a new investigator to look into the case and for the trial to take place at a provincial court, our correspondent says.

The Kazemi family lawyers also hinted they might take the case to an international court if they fail to achieve justice in Iran, our correspondent adds.

Ms Kazemi's family has previously said a high-ranking official of the justice department struck the fatal blow, and that the court was putting someone else on trial to protect the real killer.

Irna news agency quoted a Justice Department source as saying Ms Kazemi's blood money - a sum given to the family of the victim by the murderer - will be paid for by the state treasury.

The 54-year-old photographer was detained on 23 June 2003, after taking pictures outside Tehran's Evin jail.

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.

Iran's judiciary initially said she had died of a stroke.

The BBC's Nicky Goldberg
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