Court split on Kazemi family suing Iran

MONTREAL — The family of a slain Canadian photojournalist has received mixed news in its attempt to sue the Iranian government over her death.

MONTREAL — The family of a slain Canadian photojournalist has received mixed news in its attempt to sue the Iranian government over her death.

A Quebec judge ruled this week that the estate of Zahra Kazemi can’t sue Iran but he said her son’s case should be allowed to continue.

Superior Court Justice Robert Mongeon ruled Stephan Hashemi has the right to proceed with a lawsuit under an exception in Canada’s State Immunity Act.

The decision comes after a court battle in which the Iranian government attempted to block the Kazemi family from suing for $17 million — arguing it was immune from legal action in Canada.

Iran argued the State Immunity Act prevents foreign governments from being sued on Canadian soil.

Mongeon said the act wouldn’t allow the estate to sue because Kazemi’s death occurred in Iran. But an exception allows Hashemi’s case to continue because his trauma occurred on Canadian soil.

Mongeon’s ruling was met lukewarmly by Hashemi’s defence team — and appeals might be forthcoming, said lawyer Kurt Johnson.

“On the whole, the reaction is mixed: we’re delighted that Stephan’s recourse has been allowed to proceed against all the defendants but by the same token we’re disappointed the estate’s recourse has been blocked by the State Immunity Act,” Johnson said Thursday.

“We’re going to look at our options in terms of having that part of the decision reviewed.”

Kazemi was an Iranian-Canadian citizen who was beaten, raped and killed in 2003 after being arrested for photographing relatives of detainees outside Evin prison in Tehran.

She was never formally charged with any crime and was quickly buried in Iran. Hashemi has tried unsuccessfully to have his mother’s body repatriated.

Lawyers for the Kazemi estate and Hashemi argued the case should proceed in Canada and that it would be impossible to get a fair hearing in Iran.

In a 56-page decision, Mongeon waded into the issue of whether Iran and its officials benefit from immunity from civil prosecution.

“There are no exceptions to the general principle of state immunity other than those specifically mentioned in the SIA,” Mongeon wrote.

“The legislation is restrictive in nature and should be narrowly interpreted and applied even though exceptions to a restrictive statute should, generally speaking, be more liberally interpreted and applied.”

The civil suit named the Islamic Republic of Iran; its leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi; and prison official Mohammad Bakhshi.

Mongeon ruled that all defendants, including the individuals named in the suit, have a right to immunity.

The judge also dismissed a motion aimed at having the State Immunity Act declared unconstitutional.

“The statute is constitutionally valid and must be applied,” Mongeon wrote.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ice shifted to the shoreline at Sylvan Lake on April 21. (Photo contributed by Andrea Swainson)
Icy shores of Sylvan Lake

A local photographer has captured how the ice has shifted to the… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

A boat sits idle on the banks of Villa Victoria Dam, the main water supply for Mexico City residents, on the outskirts of Toluca, Mexico, Thursday, April 22, 2021. The mayor of Mexico City said the drought was the worst in 30 years, and that problem can be seen at the series of reservoirs that bring in water from other states to supply the capital. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2020, file photo Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the 4th Women’s March in Los Angeles. Jenner has been an Olympic hero, a reality TV personality and a transgender rights activist. Jenner has been consulting privately with Republican advisers as she considers joining the field of candidates seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in a likely recall election later this year. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
Jenner adds celebrity, questions to California governor race

Celebrity activist immediately stands out in a growing field

FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 file photo, Jeremy Fleming, head of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in London. Western countries risk losing control of technologies that are key to internet security and economic prosperity to nations with competing values like China and Russia if they don’t act to deal with the threat, one of the U.K.’s top spy chiefs warned on Friday, April 23, 2021. “Significant technology leadership is moving East” and causing a conflict of interests and values, Jeremy Fleming, director of government electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, said in a speech. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
UK spy chief says West faces ‘moment of reckoning’ on tech

China’s Foreign Ministry condemn the remarks

Brooke Henderson, of Canada, watches her tee shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Tournament of Champions LPGA golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Canadian Brooke Henderson vaults into tie for fourth at LPGA Tour event

Henderson is sixth in the world women’s golf rankings

Switzerland’s skip Silvana Tirinzoni makes a call during a women’s curling match against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Natacha Pisarenko
Previously unbeaten women’s teams suffer setbacks at Grand Slam curling event

Top six women’s and men’s teams qualify for the playoffs.

FILE - Gal Gadot arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gadot is using her Hollywood star power to spotlight remarkable women from around the world. The “Wonder Woman” actor is host and executive producer of a new documentary series “National Geographic Presents IMPACT with Gal Gadot,” premiering Monday, April 26. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Gal Gadot spotlights women’s stories in new docuseries

First episode follows a young Black figure skating coach in Detroit

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino listens to speakers during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday October 2, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Retaking language test unfair during COVID-19: applicants to new residency pathway

New program aims to grant 90,000 essential workers and international graduates permanent status

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Most Read