KATHLEEN HARRIS, SUN OTTAWA BUREAU
SURREY, B.C. - The federal government was complicit in a systematic coverup of the "barbaric" treatment of Zahra Kazemi, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper suggested yesterday. Blasting the "weak" Liberal reaction to gruesome details Canadian officials had received months ago, Harper accused the government of being part of Iran's whitewashing of the case.
"Here's a Canadian citizen abused, tortured, killed by a foreign government and our government just essentially goes along with it," he said in Surrey, B.C. "This is unacceptable, and this would not be acceptable in any significant power in any other western democracy. I hope Canadians will make their voices heard and demand this government stand up and be held to account."
Kazemi, a 54-year-old Iranian-born dual citizen, was arrested after taking pictures outside a Tehran prison in June 2003. A treating physician met with Foreign Affairs officials in November to describe the extent of the brutal injuries that led to the photojournalist's death.
Dr. Shahram Azam made the medical details public this week.
Harper said he was "terribly disappointed" to learn the government knew details of Kazemi's torture and beating, yet did little to hold Iran to account. Canada reinstated its ambassador to Tehran in late November.
"I don't think anything can say more about how weak our government behaves," he said.
Harper urged the federal government to immediately recall the ambassador in protest, and to work with allies through the United Nations to impose sanctions for Iran's gross human rights violations.
NDP Leader Jack Layton also blasted the "incompetent" federal government and said the Kazemi case should disturb every Canadian.
"Are we helpless, as a nation, in the face of such a horrible abuse of human rights and abuse and murder of a Canadian citizen? I just don't buy it," he said.