Iran Saturday defended harsh sentences handed down to ten Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel, saying they had been delivered in full independence and in the national interest.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, quoted by the state news agency IRNA, accused Israel of doing all in its power to mobilize international opinion "by raising false claims so as to derail the legal proceedings against the spy suspects from their natural course".
Ten of the Jewish suspects were given jail sentences totaling between four and 13 years, while two Muslims were given two years each. Three Jews and two Muslims were acquitted.
Asefi said that "despite a wide-scale propaganda campaign by the Zionist regime, Iran's judiciary managed to deal with the case of the accused independently and based on national interests."
He added that the way the case was handled and the rulings issued "proved to be contrary to the hostile objectives and prejudgments of the Zionist regime and unveiled the falsehood of all anti-Iran propaganda to world public opinion."
In a swift reaction to the sentences, Israel expressed shock and concern, declared the innocence of the accused and vowed to work with the international community for their release.
Other countries, notably the United States, expressed concern about the fairness of the closed-doors trial in the southern city of Shiraz before the verdicts were announced -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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