Iranian Parliament Speaker Discusses Fate of Convicted Jews in US
The speaker of the Iranian parliament, Mehdi Karubi, said Thursday that he had discussed the fate of 10 Jews convicted in Iran of spying with members of the US Congress in New York.
The meeting is believed to be the first for 20 years between Iranian and US parliamentarians.
Karubi told reporters he had an unscheduled meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday evening with Senator Arlen Specter and two members of the House of Representatives, Gary Ackerman and Bob Neigh.
Karubi is in New York for a three-day conference at UN headquarters of presiding officers of 141 national parliaments, organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The conference began on Wednesday.
"We were invited to visit the Metropolitan Museum and in the course of our visit we were approached by some members of the Congress," Karubi said.
"They asked us about the Jews who had been charged with espionage and we suggested that they talk to the member of parliament who represents the Jewish community in Iran," he said
The MP, Mouris Motamed, one of five members of the Iranian delegation to the IPU conference, said he spoke for about 40 minutes to the US lawmakers.
A revolutionary court in Shiraz, southern Iran, sentenced 10 Jews on July 1 to prison terms ranging from four to 13 years on charges of spying for Israel.
Two Muslims were jailed for two years, while three other Jews and two Muslims were acquitted.
Motamed said he was "in direct and constant contact" with court authorities in Iran and that "my understanding is that the Jews will receive a lighter sentence on appeal."
Motamed, who was elected to parliament four months ago to represent between 25,000 and 30,000 Jews still living in Iran, said he was grateful for "the sympathy and solidarity" of parliamentarians from other countries.
Karubi said he had already met the speakers of the Dutch, Russian, South African and Syrian parliaments here and that he had scheduled meetings with parliamentarians from Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany and Italy.
The encounter with the US lawmakers was arranged by Hooshang Amirahmadi, president of the American-Iranian Council, who told reporters that Karubi did not know in advance precisely who he was to meet.
Amirahmadi, who described himself as a non-political academic who travels frequently to Iran and is "on good terms with all the factions there," said it was not easy to set up the meeting.
"The Iranian side was very cautious," he told reporters after Karubi's news conference.
"The Metropolitan Museum was very helpful, but it had to be careful not to be political," he added.
Karubi said he took the opportunity to complain to the US lawmakers about their government's policy of imposing bilateral sanctions on Iran, and about the treatment of Iranians seeking to visit the United States.
An Iranian MP and another official who were supposed to join his delegation had been refused visas by the US authorities, he said.
Iranians who had been invited to take part in cultural events had been finger-printed and had been sent back, he said -- UNITED NATIONS (AFP)
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