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French assembly speaker calls charges against Iran Jews "barbaric"

PARIS, June 30 (Wire Services) - The speaker of the French National Assembly, Laurent Fabius, on Wednesday described as "barbaric" the death sentence facing 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel.

"Thirteen people, because they are Jews, face the death penalty by hanging on unfounded accusations," Fabius told the assembly. "I ask the Iranian authorities to reconsider this barbaric decision otherwise they cannot aspire to normal relations with the international community."

His appeal marked the first such public declaration in favour of the 13 Jews by a leading French official.

Several protests have meanwhile been held in France to demand the release of the Iranian Jews whose arrest more than two months ago has provoked an international outcry.

But Iran has rejected calls for their release saying they amounted to meddling in its affairs.

"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 Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi in a letter earlier this week to the United Nations, the UN high commissioner for human rights, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the European parliament.

The Jews are 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.

France has the third biggest Jewish community in the world -- estimated at 700,000 people -- after Israel and the United States.


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