Tories blast PM for 'spineless' response to Iran

Harper slams PM for or reestablishing relations with Iran, despite knowing the details about the deadly injuries suffered by Kazemi

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper accused the Liberal government of acting in a callous and spineless way for re-establishing relations with Iran, despite knowing the details about the deadly injuries suffered by Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

Harper's accusations come as the doctor who examined Kazemi made public for the first time last week the extent of the injuries she suffered while in Iranian custody.

The government recalled the ambassador to Iran, Philip MacKinnon, in July 2003, just after Kazemi's death "for consultations after failures in the Iranian justice system with respect to the case of Zahra Kazemi." In November 2004, Gordon Venner was appointed as the new ambassador.

Monday was the first time the government faced questions in the House about the recent revelations about Kazemi after MPs returned from their Easter break.

"It turns out for months the prime minister knew the true extent of the brutality inflicted upon Ms. Kazemi. Instead of taking a firm stand against Iran, he sent our ambassador back to that oppressive regime," Harper said.

"What kind of callous, spineless government re-establishes normal diplomatic relations with this kind of regime?"

Last week, Dr. Shahram Azam said he examined Kazemi in 2003, and that she had had been flogged, repeatedly beaten and raped. He said she had a number of injuries, including a broken nose, a fractured skull, broken fingers and a smashed toe.

Kazemi had been arrested for taking pictures outside a prison during a student protest in Tehran.

While the Iranian government has since admitted she was beaten, officials say she died when she fainted and hit her head. An Iranian security agent was later charged but acquitted of killing her.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day said sending the ambassador back to Iran was "devoid of priniciple," and called on the government to send a clear message to Iran and again recall the ambassador.

Neither Prime Minister Paul Martin nor Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew responded to questions about recalling the ambassador, instead focusing on the fact the government granted Azam asylum so he could publicize what happened to Kazemi.

Pettigrew said they have sent a message to Iran, and that for two years they've been "telling the House and all Canadians that what happened in Iran was a murder."