Pettigrew comforts Kazemi family
But no action against Iran
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew comforted the son of slain journalist Zahra Kazemi on Monday and told the Iranian ambassador that Canada remains determined to see her killers brought to justice.
Pettigrew offered, no clue, however, of what legal or diplomatic pressure tactics he's prepared to use in pursuit of that goal. Stockwell Day, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, accused the new minister of failing his first big test by not taking a tougher stand.
And in Tehran there were conflicting signals from Iranian hardliners and moderates on whether there would be any further investigation of Kazemi's death in prison more than a year ago.
Sebastien Theberge, a spokesman for Pettigrew, said the minister spoke by phone Monday to Kazemi's son Stephan Hachemi, who has been harshly critical of Ottawa's handling of the affair.
The minister "expressed once again his personal sympathy to the family," said Theberge.
He added that Pettigrew also phoned Mohammad Ali Mousavi, the Iranian ambassador who was travelling outside Ottawa, and "clearly reaffirmed the Canadian government's commitment to get justice for the death of Madam Kazemi."
There was no explanation of how Pettigrew intends to back up those words. Government officials say they are studying a range of options that include:
* Taking the case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
* Sponsoring a resolution at the United Nations denouncing the Iranian judicial system and its conduct of the Kazemi case.
* Imposing trade sanctions, although officials admit that Iran-Canada trade may not be extensive enough to serve as much of a lever.
Kazemi, a Montreal-based freelance photojournalist who was born in Iran, died in custody last summer after being arrested for taking pictures during student-led protests.
Authorities in Tehran initially said she died of a stroke, but a presidential committee later found she died of a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage from a blow to the head.
Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, a government intelligence agent, was charged with "semi-premeditated murder" although lawyers for Kazemi's family expressed doubt he was the true culprit.
Ahmadi was acquitted Saturday, following a trial that saw Canadian Ambassador Philip Mackinnon barred from court after the first day. He was called home to Ottawa in protest.
Pettigrew, who took over the foreign affairs portfolio in a Liberal cabinet shuffle last week, has been cautious in his approach to the file.
By contrast, Conservative critic Day waded in Monday with a declaration that "the Iranian regime has trampled on the human rights and legal rights of the (Kazemi) family and have virtually spat on the government of Canada.
"By failing to take immediate and decisive action it appears that Mr. Pettigrew is failing his first test as foreign affairs minister."