Iran orders new trial into death of Canadian

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TEHRAN, Nov 27 (Reuters) Iran's supreme court has ordered a new trial over the 2003 death in custody of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, a judiciary official and a lawyer said today.

Canada has long maintained there were flaws in the original trial over Zahra Kazemi's case, which soured ties between Tehran and Ottawa.

Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said the supreme court had identified ''some formal problems'' in the case and also in the qualification of the court which handled it.

''The judges of the supreme court have returned the case to a qualified court in order to remove the problems,'' Jamshidi said, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iranian-born Kazemi died in a military hospital of a brain hemorrhage after receiving a blow to the head at Tehran's Evin prison.

In Ottawa, Junior Foreign Minister Helena Guergis said Canada would welcome a decision to hold a new trial.

''Iran has an obligation to the Kazemi family to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime are brought to justice,'' she told Parliament.

But Kazemi's son expressed serious reservations about the announcement and linked it to a lawsuit he has launched against Tehran over the case.

''I have no doubts about the government of Iran -- they are criminals from A to Z and there is no hope whatsoever,'' Stephan Hachemi told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., accusing Canada of not doing enough to help him.

John Terry, a Canadian lawyer for the family, had earlier told CBC that ''our past experience with the Iranian justice system has left us profoundly disappointed and we really question whether anything fair can come out of that process''.

The Iranian appeals court upheld the original court's decision to acquit intelligence agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi of Kazemi's manslaughter. But lawyers said it sent the case back for further investigation because others might be involved.

''Following our protest at both the preliminary court and the appeal court, the supreme court returned the file to another qualified court to reinvestigate the dossier,'' Mohammadali Dadkah, a lawyer acting for the Kazemi family, told Reuters.

He said the ''formal problems'' cited by the judiciary official involved several procedural matters and said there would be another trial.

The Canadian government and lawyers for the Kazemi family had previously said evidence pointing to other suspects was ignored by the judiciary and that Aghdam Ahmadi was an innocent scapegoat.

Reuters AK VP0300

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