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Iran says three judges review Jewish spy appeal

TEHRAN, July 29 (Reuters) - Iran has assigned a three-judge panel to review an appeal by 10 Iranian Jews and two Moslems convicted of spying for Israel, a judiciary official said on Saturday.

A foreign ministry spokesman said Tehran would ``not accept any meddlesome statements'' from outside the country in the high profile espionage case.

``We have forwarded the case to Branch Nine of the appeals court and three judges have been assigned exclusively to study the case,'' local judiciary chief Hossein Ali Amiri told reporters in the southern city of Shiraz.

``The judges have been told not to investigate any other cases until this one is completed,'' he said.

All of the accused have appealed their convictions, handed down earlier this month. Sentences ranged from two to 13 years in jail.

Israel has denied any links to the convicted spies. Their trial, held behind closed doors, was criticised by overseas Jewish groups and Western governments.

The World Jewish Congress said on Friday that U.S. President Bill Clinton had said he was pressing other heads of state to try to persuade Iran to overturn the sentences.

``Please be assured that my administration has pressed every foreign government that carries weight in Tehran to take up this case with the Iranians and that I have personally raised the issue with any heads of state I believe can be of help in this matter,'' Clinton wrote to the New York-based advocacy group in a July 13 letter released earlier this week.

Elan Steinberg, WJC executive director, said the group had asked Britain, France, Germany and the Netherlands to intercede with Iran. ``They have assured us they have raised the plight of the Iranian Jews directly with Iran,'' he said.

But Iran remained defiant, vowing not to yield to outside pressure.

``Our position is very clear. We have repeatedly said we will not accept any meddlesome statements from anyone or any government at all,'' foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said on Saturday.

``Our judiciary investigated the case, independently and based on the national will and with independence,'' said Asefi, adding the defendants were treated no differently because of their religion.


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