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Iranian verdict in espionage case "disturbing"

(New York, September 22, 2000 )--Human Rights Watch today expressed its disappointment over the decision of an Iranian appeals court to uphold prison terms for ten Jews and two Muslims from Shiraz initially accused of espionage for Israel. The appeals court upheld their conviction on charges of cooperation with a hostile state, and imposed on the defendants reduced prison sentences of between two and nine years.

The appeals court reviewed the procedures and application of the law but did not afford the defendants the opportunity to defend themselves, to refute the charges, or question the evidence.

"On procedural grounds alone this court should have overturned the conviction because the trial was unfair," said Hanny Megally, executive director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division. "It was held in secret, and the only evidence against the defendants was their own statements, taken from them while they were being held in incommunicado detention."

The verdicts and sentences will be reviewed again by the Supreme Court in Tehran. Human Rights Watch said it hoped that the Iranian judiciary would take this remaining opportunity to uphold the law by dismissing the charges against the twelve because of the absence of any admissible evidence of their guilt, and the procedural violations that have accompanied this prosecution from the outset.

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