Bahai News - RFE/RL Iran Report
17 April 2000, Volume 3, Number 15
JEWS' SPY TRIAL STARTS WITH 'CONFESSIONS.'
The trial of 13 Jews accused of espionage on behalf of Israel and the
U.S. opened on 13 April in Shiraz, Fars Province. Eight Muslims were
arrested in the case, according to Iranian authorities, but they are not
being tried and it is not known if they are imprisoned. The trial is
being held in private because the case deals with national security
issues, according to the Justice Department.
Four of the 13 confessed and asked for clemency, provincial
judiciary chief Hussein Ali Amiri said after the first session. Defense
attorney Esmail Nasseri, however, said that "We categorically deny that
any confessions were made." Amiri did not say which four had confessed,
but only four defendants appeared for the first session: Dani Teflin,
Faramarz Kashi, Ramin Nematizadeh, and Shahrokh Paknahad.
The other defendants have been identified as Javid Ben Yaqub,
Ramin Farzam, Farzad Kashi, Omid Teflin, Farhad Saleh, Nasser Lavihim,
Asher Zadmehr, Navid Balazadeh, and Nejad Brokhimnejad. Defense
attorneys complained that they had only a few days to prepare, but a 12
April statement from the Fars Justice Department said that several of
the accused refused to select lawyers.
According to an unnamed judiciary source cited by London's
"Al-Hayah" on 13 April, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President
Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, and Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud
Hashemi-Shahrudi urged the court to hold a "fair" trial, an injunction
that raises questions about the kinds of trials it normally conducts.
Also, Iranian state radio's external English-language service reminded
listeners on 13 April that the Jews' trial "has nothing to do with their
"Sources acquainted with the case," claimed that "some of the
defendants" had been to Israel and undergone "security and training
courses on the use of advanced communications equipment for conveying
military information," "Al-Hayah" reported. Both the U.S. and Israel
have rejected such espionage charges and demanded the Jews be released.
Human rights organizations and Jewish community organizations
are calling for them to be released, too, and they are urging
governments and the international community to do the same. European
governments that have promoted "critical engagement" with Iran,
meanwhile, may feel added pressure, because executions or convictions
would be another sign that their policy has failed to alter Iranian
behavior. Great Britain said it was considering an "appropriate
response," according to Reuters. Foreign Minister Robin Cook is expected
to visit Iran soon.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a Senate
subcommittee on 13 April that Washington is monitoring the situation.
She added that "I am on the phone daily now with foreign ministers,
because there is a resolution that we are sponsoring in Geneva that
makes clear that the treatment of the Bahai and the Iranian Jews is
unacceptable. This morning we got news that the trial has been postponed
until 1 May. That is one possible step in the right direction, though
some of the things we are still hearing about how the trial may be
carried out are not acceptable."
The next court session is scheduled for 1 May. Whether this is
to allow the Jewish prisoners to celebrate Passover or to avoid
conflicts with Ashura commemorations is not clear. Tehran's Central
Jewish Committee had requested a Passover furlough for the prisoners,
Reuters reported on 4 April. (Bill Samii)
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