Church leaders urge justice for Iranian jews
LONDON, June 27 (Reuters) - Christian and Jewish church leaders in Britain
urged Iran on Tuesday to ensure that 13 Jews charged with spying for Israel
receive ``just and transparent'' treatment by the court.
The verdict on the Iranian Jews is expected to be delivered next Saturday,
according to the head of the judiciary in the southern Iranian city of
The case has drawn international attention, with overseas Jewish groups
and western governments worried that the Jews will not receive a fair trial
under Iran's system of Islamic justice.
The London-based Council of Christians and Jews said it had written
to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami expressing concern at the plight
of the defendants.
``We urge the government of Iran to ensure that the judicial process
is both just and transparent and we wish to assure the prisoners that they
are in our thoughts and prayers,'' the letter said.
It was signed by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, spiritual leader
of the world's 70 million Anglicans, Andrew McLellan, Moderator of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and Michael Bowen, Archbishop
of Southwark in London.
They were joined by Gregorius, the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Thyateira
and Great Britain, Anthony Burnham, the Moderator of the Free Churches'
Council, Britain's Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, and Albert Friedlander,
who represents Progressive and Reform Jewish Congregations in Britain.
The Council of Christians and Jews was set up to bring together the
two faiths to fight prejudice, intolerance and discrimination between people
of different religious beliefs.
The judiciary in Iran has taken pains to reassure foreign diplomats
and human rights observers that the hearings, behind the closed doors of
the Revolutionary Court, have been just.
The prosecution says nine of the Jews have acknowledged collaborating
with Israeli intelligence, largely through passing information collected
from Moslem collaborators, including military officers.
But the defence argues any such admissions have not been supported by
evidence that data that may have been passed to the Jewish state was in
Ten of the Jews and two of the Moslems are being held in custody, pending
the final verdict. Three other Jews and an unspecified number of Moslem
defendants are free on bail.