The lead suspect in the closed-door espionage trial of 13 Iranian Jews confessed on state television Monday, saying he had betrayed his homeland by spying for the Israelis.
"I am guilty. I accept the charges against me. I spied for Israel," Hamid Tefilin said calmly in a short confession broadcast during the evening news on only the second day of the trial, which has attracted worldwide attention.
Tefilin, wearing his gray prison clothes and betraying little emotion, said he felt great remorse but had been duped by the Israelis into spying against his country, which does not recognise the Jewish state.
"The government of Israel uses the religious belief of Jews worldwide -- that Israel is our promised land -- to get people to spy for them," he said, adding that he had used Iranian Muslims in his espionage efforts.
"I have betrayed Iran and trampled on the trust that has been placed in me by the government and the people. I am full of remorse. I now realise that Iran is our home because we live here."
Although reporters have been barred from attending the trial, the interview was filmed at the court in the southern city of Shiraz where Tefilin was in the dock for the trial's second day Monday.
A court spokesman told reporters outside the court earlier that Tefilin had taken the stand and confessed to training under Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and passing on classified documents to Israel.
He also admitted that he had been supplied information by eight Iranian Muslims who have also been arrested in the affair but are to be tried separately, court spokesman Hossein Ali Amiri said.
Tefilin's lawyer Ismail Nasseri told AFP that his client had not been involved in spying, although he confirmed that Tefilin had twice visited Israel.
"Under Iranian law, traveling to Israel, receiving training there and even exchanging information with foreigners are not regarded as espionage," Ismail said.
He said it was not clear what confidential information Tefilin was accused of revealing, and whether what he had told the Israelis was not information available to anyone.
ISRAEL DEMANDS IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF IRANIAN JEWS CHARGED WITH SPYING
Israel Monday demanded the immediate release of 13 Iranian Jews on trial in Iran charged with spying for Israel.
"The attempt to present these Jews as spies is ludicrous and barbaric. They are innocent and should be released immediately," said a foreign ministry statement.
"We hope that those who stand trial in Iran, probably only because they are Jewish, will be released without any delay," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Aviv Sharon said in response to Monday's reported confession.
The call came after the main accused, Hamid Tefilin, admitted betraying his country and spying for Israel.
POWER STRUGGLE CONTINUES
The trial comes amid a power struggle between Islamic hard-liners and President Mohammed Khatami's reformist wing. The conservatives have opposed the reformers' approaches to the West, including the United States, and have launched a crackdown against their attempts at political and social change. The judiciary has closed 16 pro-democracy newspapers and arrested six reformist activists in the past two weeks.
Amiri said that the trial of all 13 should be over within weeks. The next session was scheduled Wednesday. The Jews are being tried in a non-jury revolutionary court where the judge also serves as prosecutor.
The defendants' families, members of Iran's Jewish community, Western diplomats and foreign journalists milled outside the courthouse in Shiraz, 550 miles south of the capital, Tehran – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )