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Sunday, 30 July, 2000, 02:01 GMT 03:01 UK
Iranian Jews' appeal under review
One of the Iranian Jews talks to the press
One of the Iranian Jews talks to the press
Iran has assigned a panel of three judges to review the appeals filed by 10 Iranian Jews sentenced for spying for Israel, officials said.

We have repeatedly said we will not accept any meddlesome statements from anyone or any government at all

Iranian Foreign ministry spokesman
The announcement comes after the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in New York revealed on Friday that US President Bill Clinton had told them he was working on the issue.

Court official Hossein Ali Amiri told Iranian television on Saturday that the appeals would be given top priority, adding he hoped a decision would be made in about three weeks.

The 10 have all appealed against their convictions, as have two Muslims who were on trial with them.

Sister of one accused collapses on hearing the verdict
The sister of one accused collapsed on hearing the verdict
Their sentences - handed down on 1 July by a court in the southern city of Shiraz - ranged from four to 13 years imprisonment.

The Jews were charged of providing "military information" about a Shiraz air base and of conducting "polls" among troops about possibly improving US-Iran relations.

Although no evidence of spying was produced in court, all but one confessed to the charges. Some confessed on state television, which defence lawyers strongly condemned.

The trial provoked strong international protests, particularly from overseas Jewish groups and western governments. Israel has denied any links to the convicted spies.

Clinton letter

A foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday that international pressure - by the US or any other country - would "have absolutely no effect on the fate of those individuals".

A Jewish boy prays in Shiraz
A Jewish boy in Iran, where Jews have lived for 2,500 years
"Our position is very clear. We have repeatedly said we will not accept any meddlesome statements from anyone or any government at all," spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Iranian television.

"[The] judiciary issued its verdict by acting totally independently," he said, adding the courts treated all individuals the same way.

His comments were in response to a letter written to the World Jewish Congress by Mr Clinton.

The US president had written to the advocacy group: "Please be assured that my administration has pressed every foreign government that carries weight in Tehran to take up this case."

One of the accused hugs his mother
One of the accused hugs his mother

Mr Asefi condemned the comments by Mr Clinton, described by Iranian TV as "famous for his support for the Zionist regime" of Israel.

He accused the US of raising the Iranian Jews issue to cover up the failure of the Middle East peace talks.

Iran has the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East, outside Israel.

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See also:

02 Jul 00 | Middle East
Iran rejects criticism of spy verdicts
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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