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July 2000, Week 1
|Iran Jews Pray for Accused Spies
|Iran Arrests Pro-Reform Lawyers
|Iran Feels Pressure for Free Press
Iran Jews Pray for Accused Spies
By Afshin Valinejad
Associated Press Writer
SHIRAZ, Iran - Iranian Jews converged Friday on a synagogue in the heart of this ancient city's Jewish quarter, offering prayers on the eve of a verdict for 13 Jews accused of spying for Israel.
"I'm going to pray sincerely for tomorrow, and whatever happens I accept that it is God's will," said Daniel Bent-Yacoub, the 14-year-old son of Javid Bent-Yacoub. Defense attorneys have said Daniel's father, a 42-year-old shop owner, testified to collecting military information for Israel but insisted his actions weren't espionage.
Only men and boys attended the prayers at Rabeezadeh Synagogue to avoid overcrowding. Because of the Jewish Sabbath, all the men arrived on foot for the prayers.
"My mother is at home," Daniel said. "She prefers to pray in solitude. She's quite anxious, but hopeful for God's mercy."
The case has cast a pall over the 6,000-strong Jewish community of Shiraz, the ancient capital of the Persian empire that attracted people of all faiths because of its wealth and tolerance.
Eight of the 13 Jewish defendants have pleaded guilty, four have pleaded innocent and one Bent-Yacoub acknowledged passing information but maintains his action did not constitute espionage. Israel has denied any of the 13 were spies.
In 1997, two Jews were hanged at Tehran's Evin prison on similar spying charges. Iranian officials have differed on whether the death penalty could be applied if any of the 13 in the current case are convicted.
The trial of the imprisoned Jews has attracted attention from the United States, Israel and several European countries, which have demanded Iran free the suspects.
Iran's Jewish community, although it has dwindled over the decades, remains the Middle East's largest outside Israel. Iranian Jews are allowed to practice aspects of their religion but are forbidden to teach Hebrew, the liturgical language.
At its height, Iran's Jewish community numbered about 100,000 and was still around 80,000 just before Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Now there are about 25,000 Jews. Among those attending the prayers Friday were Haroun Yashayaii, head of Iran's Jewish society and Maurice Moatamed, the single Jewish representative in the 290-seat Majlis, or parliament.
Iran Arrests Pro-Reform Lawyers
The Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran - Police have detained two lawyers who allegedly got a leader of an Islamic vigilante group to discuss his links to hard-line Iranian politicians on videotape, state-run radio reported Wednesday.
Mohsen Rahami and Shirin Ebadi, both pro-democracy activists, were arrested because of "allegations against some officials" made in a tape recording, Tehran radio quoted the Tehran Justice Administration as saying.
The radio gave no details, but newspapers have reported for several weeks that the two lawyers were behind the taped confessions of Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a member of a violent vigilante group controlled by political hard-liners. Vigilante groups have frequently attacked reformist meetings and demonstrations.
In a videotape widely circulated in Tehran, Ebrahimi names several senior members of the government, all of them hard-liners, and alleges they used his group to attack their opponents.
The lawyers' arrests and Ebrahimi's confessions are part of the unfolding power struggle between reformists led by President Mohammad Khatami and hard-liners who look for support to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the past two months, the hard-line-controlled judiciary has closed 19 newspapers and ordered the detention of several journalists and political activists.
On Wednesday, the managing director of one of the closed papers, Mostafa Izadi, went on trial in Tehran. The prosecution says his weekly paper, Ava, violated the country's press law.
Iran Feels Pressure for Free Press
By Ali Akbar Dareini
Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran -Iran's supreme leader urged the conservative judiciary Tuesday not to yield to reformist pressure for greater press freedom.
In a statement broadcast on state radio, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told judges that they had to punish criminals irrespective of their political affiliations.
"Some political factions are seeking, through creating an uproar, to undermine the authority and dignity of the judiciary and intimidate its officials in order to force them to give in to their demands," Tehran radio quoted Khamenei as saying.
The judiciary, which is dominated by hard-liners, has shut down 19 newspapers and detained several leading journalists and political activists during the past two months in an attempt to keep reformists in check.
Last week, some 151 lawmakers wrote a letter to chief justice Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi urging him to "put an end to the illegal closure of newspapers" and to "respect the rights of detainees," saying such measures had tarnished Iran's reputation.
Shahroudi brushed aside the appeal on Tuesday. In a statement read out in the parliament, or Majlis, and broadcast live on the radio, Shahroudi said the judiciary would not allow the undermining of Iran's Islamic principles.
"Development of the judiciary means a developed judicial system on the basis of pure Islamic teachings ... It does not mean unrestrained freedom that would undermine the principles of the Islamic establishment under an attractive and tempting cover," Shahroudi said.
Reformists swept the Feb. 18 legislative elections, ousting hard-liners from control of the Majlis for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They have promised to give priority to press and political reforms.
Since his 1997 election, President Mohammad Khatami has eased many of the social, political and cultural restrictions that hard-liners seek to preserve.
Despite their majority in parliament, it will not be easy for Khatami's allies to get their way. Khamenei is the final authority in Iran, and all bills passed by the legislature must be approved by the hard-line Guardian Council. Hard-liners also control the military and the broadcast media.