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Sunday, 2 July, 2000, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Iran rejects criticism of spy verdicts
Shamsi Kahkan mother of defendant speaking to reporters
Families of the accused were surprised by the verdict
Iran has rejected western criticism of the conviction of 10 Iranian Jews on Saturday on charges of spying for Israel.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said condemnation of the verdicts by Israel, the United States, Canada and a number of European countries consituted interference in Iran's affairs.



We advise governments objecting to the verdicts to respect the provisions of international law on countries' sovereignty rights and avoid meddling in others' internal affairs

Iranian Foreign Ministry
The 10 Jews were sentenced to terms of between four and 13 years by a court in the southern city of Shiraz, after a long-running trial which aroused widespread international interest.

Three other Iranian Jews were acquitted, while two Muslim defendants were jailed for two years.

Interference

The spokesman for the foreign ministry said that Iran had been subject to a negative media campaign over the trial.

Mr Asefi said the judiciary in Iran would not be influenced by the foreign criticism.

"We advise governments objecting [to the verdicts] to respect the provisions of international law on countries' sovereignty rights and avoid meddling in others' internal affairs," Mr Asefi said.


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

President Clinton
The court in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz heard that the 10 had been working for Israel in some form since before the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Although no evidence of spying was produced in court, all but one of the Jews confessed to the charges against them.

Some of the confessions were made on state television, a practice strongly denounced by defence lawyers.

International criticism

The US and a number of western countries condemned the verdicts handed down by the court on Saturday.

President Clinton said he was "disturbed" by the verdict.

Lawyer Ismail Nasseri announcing verdict to the press
Defence Lawyer Ismail Nasseri said the verdict was a good result
In a statement he said: "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 spire."

In Britain, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office also expressed its concern.

"We and our EU partners have consistently raised our concerns about the conduct of the trial, in particular at its closed nature despite earlier assurances," the statement said.

World Jewry

The single Jewish representative in the 290-seat Iranian majlis or parliament, Maurice Motamed, said the verdicts and sentences "have seriously affected the community."

"When I talked with many of the Jews in Shiraz, I clearly could see a wave of immigration coming," he said.

Israel said the 10 were innocent and that it would not rest until they were released.

The vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, Lord Janner, described the verdict as "disgraceful".

He said the Iranian Jewish community was being persecuted to fuel internal political divisions.

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See also:

01 Jul 00 | Middle East
Iranian Jews guilty of spying
01 Jul 00 | Middle East
Iran's Jews face uncertain future
01 May 00 | Middle East
Iranian Jew 'admits spying'
10 May 00 | Middle East
Iranian Jew denies spying charges
13 Apr 00 | Middle East
Trial puts spotlight on Iran's Jews
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