OTTAWA - The federal government has pulled out of a coming conference called "Doing Business with Iran" amid Ottawa's stepped-up calls for justice in the brutal death of Zahra Kazemi.
The Iranian-born Canadian citizen died in July 2003, several days after being arrested for taking photos of a demonstration outside a Tehran prison. The doctor who examined the 54-year-old woman has fled Iran. Last week he told an Ottawa news conference of horrific injuries that he said could only have been the result of methodical torture and rape.
Iranian officials say the Montreal photojournalist died after a fall.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew on Tuesday demanded an international forensic examination, saying Ottawa is fed up with Iran's "lies" and "coverups."
But news of the Montreal conference, planned for April 13-15, was fresh fodder for critics who have assailed Ottawa for not being harder on Iran.
The gathering for importers and exporters was organized with help from Agriculture Canada. The department was to help supply audio-visual equipment, refreshments and interpreters.
"In light of the new details involving the Kazemi case, the Government of Canada has decided not to actively participate any further," said Christine Aquino, spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell.
"There will be no Government of Canada presence at this event."
All related contracts will be honoured, but a previously scheduled roster of federal speakers will no longer take part, Aquino said.