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The BBC's Jim Muir reports from Shiraz
"Lawyers are likely to challenge Mr Teflin's degree of culpability"
 real 28k

Monday, 1 May, 2000, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Iranian Jew 'admits spying'
Hamid Teflin
Hamid Teflin (left) was shown confessing on Iranian TV
One of the main defendants in the espionage trial of 13 Iranian Jews has confessed to spying for Israel.

Hossein Ali Amiri, the head of the judiciary in Shiraz where the trial resumed on Monday, said Hamid 'Danny' Teflin "has confessed to spying for Israel in court today, and his case is finished".


We're in favour of a fair and impartial trial, and that's why we don't want it to last a long time

Hossein Ali Amiri, Head of Shiraz Judiciary

Iranian TV broadcast on Monday night footage of Hamid Teflin admitting the charges.

"I spied for the government of Israel in the field of political, military, economic and social activities," he said during a brief interview.

Verdicts will not be passed until a week after the trial of all the accused is concluded, and defendants will then have 20 days to appeal against any sentences.

Earlier, an international human rights monitor was allowed to speak to the judge and see one of the defendants - the first contact by a foreign observer in a case being watched closely by Western governments and overseas Jewish groups.

'Mastermind'

Prosecutors have described Mr Teflin as the mastermind behind the alleged spy ring.

They say surveillance teams detected suspicious activities on his part and then moved in with two waves of arrests.

Jewish women pray in Shiraz
Members of Shiraz's Jewish community are anxious about the outcome of the trial

The opening session was postponed two weeks ago to allow the defence more time to prepare its case.

Three other defendants were in court with Mr Teflin. One will have his case heard later on Monday, and the other two on Wednesday.

Mr Amiri said the judge would question each defendant and possibly listen to pleas from their lawyers.

The spokesman also told reporters the trial was unlikely to exceed six hearings and that the sessions might be held at a rate of two per week in order to speed up the process.

"We're in favour of a fair and impartial trial, and that's why we don't want it to last a long time," he said.

Confessions

The prosecution case is based largely on confessions made by the suspects.

But defence lawyer Esmail Naseri says the confessions are "irrelevant" and inadmissible because they had not been made in the presence of defence counsel.

A BBC correspondent in Shiraz says that lawyers are now likely to challenge the degree of Mr Telfin's culpability.

Judge Sadeq Nourani - who also serves as prosecutor in the Revolutionary Court - has said that he will not be swayed by domestic or international political concerns.

One of the three defendants who is free on bail, 40-year-old Nejat Borkhimnejad of Isfahan, said they had received summonses but not yet been called into the courtroom.

Mr Borkhimnejad, a tailor, said: "I don't know if the judge will ask to see me or not, but my only wish is for this trial to end."

High tension


Political tensions are running high

The case comes at a time of high political tensions in Iran, following a series of steps by the conservative-dominated judiciary against the reformist movement led by President Mohammed Khatami.

A total of 16 reformist newspapers have been closed down, and reports say that two prominent women reformists have been imprisoned.

The Jews being put on trial, along with eight Iranian Muslims, were arrested more than a year ago but details of the accusations against them are not clear.

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See also:

13 Apr 00 | Middle East
Trial of Iranian Jews adjourned
13 Apr 00 | Middle East
Trial puts spotlight on Iran's Jews
28 Oct 99 | Middle East
Khatami's promise to Jewish 'spies'
29 Apr 00 | Middle East
Khatami: Reform unstoppable
14 Jun 99 | Middle East
Khatami: Jews are safe in Iran
11 Jun 99 | Middle East
Israel denies Iranian spy allegations
29 Jun 99 | Middle East
Iran rejects 'spies' outcry
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