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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 Shiraz.

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 fact classified.

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.


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