AFP: Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has rebuffed calls from Ottawa for an independent inquiry into the death in custody here of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Tehran newspapers said Thursday. Kharazi insisted the case was a matter for Iran's hardline judiciary and not his government, and dismissed testimony advanced by Canada to support its charge that journalist Zahra Kazemi had been tortured, saying the doctor cited was an imposter. AFP

TEHRAN - Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has rebuffed calls from Ottawa for an independent inquiry into the death in custody here of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Tehran newspapers said Thursday.

Kharazi insisted the case was a matter for Iran's hardline judiciary and not his government, and dismissed testimony advanced by Canada to support its charge that journalist Zahra Kazemi had been tortured, saying the doctor cited was an imposter.

"It's the judiciary that is in charge of the Kazemi case and any demand connected with it should be addressed to them," the papers quoted Kharazi as telling his Canadian counterpart Pierre Pettigrew in a telephone conversation Tuesday.

"Before we take account of his testimony, the doctor needs to prove he worked in the hospital" where Kazemi was taken after sustaining a fatal blow while in custody in June 2003, Kharazi said.

"The (hospital) management say this person never worked there."

Pettigrew told Canadian MPs he had telephoned Kharazi to demand that Kazemi's remains be handed over and an independent post-mortem be carried out.

"Iran is in the wrong, it was murder, and that is why we brought the doctor here, to clearly show the facts," he said, referring to former Iranian military doctor Shahram Azam, who has been granted refugee status in Canada.

Azam said Kazemi was unconscious when she was taken into hospital and had injuries consistent with torture, including broken fingers, evidence of rape, missing fingers and genital damage.

But Iran hit back Saturday, branding the charges "baseless and completely false" and denying that anyone named Shahram Azam ever worked in the hospital.

The long-running case -- which has already seen an intelligence agent acquitted of murder last July -- has sparked a major rift between Tehran and Ottawa.

Late Wednesday, the Canadian government announced it was pulling out of a conference to promote trade with Iran due to open in Montreal next week, to protest the lack of transparency in the Kazemi case.