Bahai News - Iran sentences to jail 10 Jews, 2 Muslims accused of spying
Iran sentences to jail 10 Jews, 2 Muslims accused of spying
July 1, 2000
Web posted at: 4:44 p.m. EDT (2044 GMT)
From staff and wire reports
An Islamic Revolutionary Court also acquitted three defendants, a
defense attorney said. Also, two Muslims were convicted of working with
the Jewish defendants, and another two were acquitted.
Israel, which has steadfastly denied contacts with the men, immediately
denounced the verdicts. Relatives of the defendants -- who arrived at
the courthouse in Shiraz on foot because of the Jewish Sabbath -- moaned
Defense lawyer Esmail Naseri urged family members to remain calm after
the verdicts were handed down. Most of the accused are from Shiraz,
which is 880 kilometers (550 miles) south of the capital of Tehran.
"None of these verdicts and sentences are final and all can be
appealed," Naseri said. "We are relieved that there were no death sentences."
Verdicts prompt international criticism
Human rights organizations, foreign governments and Jewish groups have
sharply questioned the fairness of the trial, which started in April.
The trial was conducted behind closed doors without a jury, and the
judge also acted as prosecutor.
France, which currently chairs the 15-nation European Union, called the
trial a disappointment and said the EU hoped Iran's appeals court would
reconsider the sentences.
In Washington, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he was "deeply
concerned" by the convictions and noted that the United States Human
Rights Commission had denounced as "seriously flawed" the judicial
process by which the 13 Iranian Jews were tried.
"We have raised our concerns time and time again, when the Iranian
government has treated intellectuals, journalists, Muslim clerics and
members of the Baha'i community with the same fundamental unfairness,"
"We are deeply disappointed that the Iranian government has again failed
to act as a society based on the rule of law, to which the Iranian
people aspire," Clinton said.
Clinton's statement came following a 45-minute phone conversation on
Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who earlier had
released a statement saying, "The prime minister calls on the
international community to continue and pressure the Iranian authorities
to free the innocent prisoners."
U.S. Vice President Al Gore, who is campaigning for November's
presidential election, called the verdicts the result of a "flawed legal
In a written statement, Gore accused the Iranian government of trying
the suspects "without the benefit of internationally recognized due
Gore's Republican opponent in the presidential race, Texas Gov. George
W. Bush, also released a statement on the sentences.
"The court has diminished Iran's standing in the world, and its decision
is a further setback to hopes for improved relations between the United
States and Iran," the Bush statement said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke condemned the
convictions and described the trial as a "kangaroo proceeding."
"I think this is a ridiculous outcome," said Holbrooke, who was in the
Swiss Alps attending the annual Crans-Montana business forum. "These
people are innocent and they should be freed immediately. They are not
Defendants accused of trying to recruit
The charges on which the men were convicted included "cooperating with a
hostile government, membership in an illegal (spy) ring and recruitment
of new agents," Naseri said. Israel and Iran are archenemies.
According to the prosecution, defendant Dani Tefilin, a shoe salesman
who received a 13-year sentence, held wild parties to lure Muslim
informants. Co-defendant Asher Zadmehr, a university language professor
who also got 13 years, acted as one of the senior coordinators of the
gang, authorities alleged.
Tefilin was the first of the defendants arrested more than a year ago.
Officials said the trial was conducted in private because it involved
state secrets. Little information about the Muslim defendants has ever
Iranian authorities said eight of the 13, including Tefilin, had
confessed and pleaded guilty. Four others pleaded innocent and one
acknowledged passing information but maintained his action did not
Lawyers for the accused have suggested the purported confessions may
have been coerced. They also said they had seen no evidence of espionage
other than the confessions, and they argued the prosecution had failed
to show that any of the information that may have been passed was in
Sentences condemned as excessive
The convictions touched off alarm among groups sympathetic to the
defendants. Iranian hard-liners in the judicial and clerical
establishments had demanded they be executed.
One of Tefilin's sisters sobbed uncontrollably, while other family
members blamed the large international press corps present at the trial
for focusing attention on the case.
"I want him to be released now, I want him to come home," said the
mother of Ramin Nematizadeh, an army conscript accused of passing
intelligence from his barracks.
The special parliamentary deputy for Iran's 30,000-strong Jewish
community called the jail terms excessive.
"We did not think the sentences would be this harsh," said Morris Moatamed.
He said Jewish emigration from Iran, which hosts the biggest Jewish
community in the Muslim Middle East, had grown since the case began.
"I have requested a meeting with the supreme clerical leader and the
president to discuss this and other issues," Moatamed said.
Israel vowed to press for release of the men.
David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee,
said he was not surprised by the verdicts.
"It's a tragedy for the 10, and our hearts go out to them and their
families, even as our resolve to rescue them remains undiminished,"
Harris said when reached Saturday in New York.
Correspondent Kasra Naji, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed
to this report.
©Copyright 2000, CNN
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