New protests held in France for release of 13 Iranian
PARIS, June 29 (Wire Services) - Thirteen French public figures briefly
chained themselves Tuesday near the Iranian embassy in Paris to demand
the release of 13 Iranian Jews whose arrest on charges of spying has provoked
an international outcry.
Surrounded by some 100 protestors chanting "free the innocent"
and "Jews in prison, why this silence?", the figures included
Jean Kahn, head of France's Jewish consistory, Patrick Gaubert, head of
anti-racist organization LICRA, and the Paris mayor's deputy, Jean-Pierre
"We want to warn the Iranian government against any parody of
justice that would endanger the lives of these unfortunate people,"
they said in a declaration.
They said that the 13 accused, including a 16-year-old boy, were
"hostages in a power struggle between rival Iranian clans."
Similar protests were being held in several other French cities Tuesday.
"The struggle for human rights must force our government to
prevent these 13 Jews from being sacrificed at the expense of economic
interests," human rights advocate Mouloud Aounit said.
France has the third biggest Jewish community in the world -- estimated
at 700,000 people -- after Israel and the United States.
In a letter to a number of international organizations Monday, Iranian
Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi categorically rejected calls for the release
of the 13 who were arrested more than two months ago, most of them in the
southern city of Shiraz.
They are due to be tried before a revolutionary court and face the
death penalty if found guilty of spying for Israel or the United States,
both considered enemies of the Islamic republic.
"These calls for their release are not acceptable and constitute
an insult to Iran's sovereign right to fight threats to its national security,"
said Kharazi in his letter sent to the United Nations, the UN high commissioner
for human rights, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and
the European parliament.