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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Khatami meets Jewish leaders
President Khatami meets Jewish leaders
President Khatami called for peaceful coexistence
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has met representatives of the country's Jewish community and reassured them over the recent conviction of 10 Jews for spying.

He said religion had played no part at the trial, and that it was important that justice should prevail.

A young Jewish boy in Iran
There has been a Jewish community in Iran for more than 2,000 years
Ten Jews and two Muslims were found guilty by a revolutionary court last month of spying for Israel and sentenced to jail terms of between two and 13 years.

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

Confessions

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.

A higher court is expected to rule on their appeal by early next month.

Iran recognises Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism as official religions, and representatives of each are elected to parliament.

Mr Khatami told the 40-strong Jewish group, which included Iran's chief Rabbi Yousef Hamadani-Cohen and Jewish MPs, that there was a need for peaceful coexistence among the nation's religious communities.

One lawmaker said it was the first time any Iranian president had met such a large group from the Jewish community.

More than 30,000 Jews live in Iran - the largest Jewish community in a Middle Eastern country outside Israel. Such a community has existed in Iran for more than 2,000 years.

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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
30 Jul 00 | Middle East
Iranian Jews' appeal under review
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