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Lawyers for Iran Jews hand in final defence papers

By Ali Raiss-Tousi

TEHRAN, June 6 (Reuters) - Lawyers for most of the Iranian Jews on trial in the southern city of Shiraz for alleged spying for Israel handed in their final defence statement to the Revolutionary Court on Tuesday.

Lead defence lawyer Esmail Naseri, spokesman for a team of attorneys representing nine of the 10 defendants who remain in custody, said the 26-page statement claiming the innocence of their clients was lodged with Judge Sadegh Nourani.

``The statement is a summary of the oral arguments made in court, which have been presented in a logical and straightforward manner,'' Naseri told Reuters by telephone from Shiraz.

``We have argued that our clients are innocent and cannot be found guilty of espionage.''

But Hossein-Ali Amiri, head of the local justice department and prosecutor, said the state's evidence against the suspects was conclusive. A verdict is expected in about two weeks.

``Conclusive evidence has been presented and the confessions of most suspects corroborate the evidence. It is now up to the judge to decide the case,'' Amiri said.

Thirteen Jews were arrested in three waves last year, mostly in Shiraz, and charged with membership in a spy network for Israel, Iran's arch-foe. Three of the suspects were later released on bail.


At least eight Moslems, some of them military officers, were indicted along with the Jews on charges of collaboration in gathering intelligence. Two of them are now in detention.

Nine of the 13 Jews have admitted to membership in the network during the closed-door hearings in the presence of their lawyers. Four -- including those free on bail -- have denied all charges.

The trial has focused unwanted attention on the comfortable lives many Jews have quietly carved out in the Islamic Republic, home to the largest Jewish community in the Moslem Middle East.

The affair has also exposed differences within the Jewish community. Judicial sources say some suspects at first declined to accept lawyers provided by the Association of Iranian Jews in Tehran, thereby prolonging the investigations.

``One of the suspects, after receiving notice that the court would appoint a lawyer for him if he did not choose himself, wrote that if he had to choose between a court-appointed lawyer and lawyers provided by the Association, he would opt for a court-appointed lawyer,'' Amiri said.

Wives of two of the suspects, who asked not to be named, said that they had been cut off from other members of the community, especially during the first few months.

They said that community leaders at first refused to allow them to hold prayer vigils for their husbands in the main Shiraz synagogue and that they had felt like outcasts.

Iran's constitution guarantees a Jewish representative in parliament and recognises Jewish laws on burial, divorce and inheritance.


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