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Iran reports on journalist death

Iran confirmed Wednesday that Zahra Kazemi died as the result of a blow to the head.
Iran confirmed Wednesday that Zahra Kazemi died as the result of a blow to the head.

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Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died from a brain hemorrhage caused by a blow to the head, an Iranian official said. Shirzad Bozorgmehr reports (July 16)
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died last Friday as a result of a blow to the head, which caused a brain hemorrhage, Iran's Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters Wednesday.

He did not say how Kazemi, 54, received the blow to the head.

She was arrested on June 23 and interrogated by Iranian authorities after taking photographs of a prison north of Tehran.

Initially, Iranian authorities said Kazemi complained she was not feeling well and was transferred to Bahiatollah Hospital in Tehran June 26, where she had a stroke and died two weeks later.

Meanwhile, Iran's President Mohammad Khatami has set up a special committee to investigate Kazemi's death, Iran's state news agency reported Wednesday.

Her body will not be buried until the cause of death is established, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Kazemi -- who had dual Canadian-Iranian nationality -- was detained and interrogated by Iranian authorities for illegally taking photographs of Evin prison, as part of her report for Canada's Camera Press journal on recent anti-government protests, according to IRNA.

Three days after her arrest, Kazemi complained she was not feeling well and was transferred to Bahiatollah Hospital, where she died two weeks later, Iranian authorities say.

While she was in the hospital, Canada's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Harder met with Iran's Canadian ambassador to express Canada's "grave concern" over Kazemi's condition.

Canada's Deputy Prime Minister John Manley warned that the issue could be a "setback" for his country's neutral relationship with Iran.

Her son, Stephene Salman Hachemi who lives in Montreal, demanded Iran return Kazemi's body to Canada.

But IRNA reports that Kazemi's mother, who lives in Iran, has requested she be buried in Shiraz. Sources tell IRNA that request was rejected until the cause of death is established.

Days before her arrest, Kazemi had requested and was granted a work permit to cover reports on Tehran University and its students, for the English "camera press," Iran's director of foreign news media Mohammad Hussein Khoshvaqt told IRNA.

Her permit was granted to her as an Iranian national and, therefore, she was not treated like a foreign journalist, he said.

After receiving the license, Kazemi cut her contact with the Department of the Foreign Press and Media until "we heard from relevant authorities that she, ignoring all regulations, had been taking photos from the Evin prison north of Tehran" and compiling a report on the families of those arrested during the recent unrest in Tehran, Khoshvaqt told IRNA.

Iran announced that more than 4,000 people were arrested during protests, which began June 10 and lasted 9 consecutive nights, including about 800 students.

The protests called for reforms and increased freedoms in the strict Islamic government. Many turned violent, as government authorities and vigilantes attacked the protesters, who in some cases fought back.

-- Journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr in Tehran contributed to this report


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