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Journalist tortured in Iran, doctor says

TORONTO -- A Canadian photojournalist was beaten, tortured, and raped before she died two years ago while in custody in Iran, a former Iranian Army doctor who examined her said yesterday.

Shahram Azam said he examined Zahra Kazemi, a 54-year-old Canadian freelance journalist of Iranian origin, in a military hospital in Tehran on June 26, 2003, and noticed horrific injuries to her entire body that could only have been caused by torture and rape. It was just days after she was arrested for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests against the ruling theocracy.

Azam recently received political asylum in Canada.

Azam examined Kazemi in the emergency room after she was transferred from Tehran's Evin prison. Reading from notes taken from the examination, Azam said Kazemi arrived unconscious with bruises all over her body.

She had a skull fracture, two broken fingers, missing fingernails, a crushed big toe, and a smashed nose, he said. She also had deep scratches on the neck and evidence of flogging on the legs and back, he said.

''As a doctor, I could see this was caused by torture," Azam said through an interpreter.

He said as a male doctor in a military hospital, he was banned from examining a woman's genitals, but the nurse who did so told him of ''brutal damage."

Iranian officials have said she died after she went on a hunger strike, fainted, and struck her head in a fall.

The authorities have at various times acknowledged that Kazemi was killed by state security officers, but the official explanation is unchanged.

A secret agent was brought to trial in the case and was acquitted. But lawyers for Kazemi's mother said the proceedings were flawed. They also said a prison official, not the agent, delivered the fatal blow.

Pierre S. Pettigrew, Canada's foreign affairs minister, condemned Iran yesterday for not holding a legitimate trial.

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