Several of the 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel recanted Tuesday on their public confessions during their trial in the southern city of Shiraz, saying they had been extracted under duress, a defense lawyer said.
"Some defendants have said the confessions were made at the demand of (government) agents," said defense spokesman Ismail Nasseri on leaving the court after the latest session of the trial. "Some of them do not remember the events."
The only defendants to appear before Judge Sadeq Nurani Tuesday were Farhad Seleh, Ramim Shahrokh Paknahad, Nasser Levi-Chaim and Farzad Kashi.
Since the opening of the trial on April 13, eight of the defendants have confessed, to a greater or lesser extent, to having spied for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency.
The confessions were made in public, and repeated on television, but the defense has argued that none of these confessions were corroborated.
Earlier Tuesday, Nasseri expressed "great optimism" about the likely outcome of the trial.
He said that, on Monday, there was a confrontation between defendant Javid Bentyaghoub, who has consistently denied his guilt, and one of the eight Muslims also accused in the case, and "who completely denied the charges made against our clients and demolished the case."
"This denial is a great victory for us," he added. "Everything has changed now. The court had produced documents that have no legal value. The charges against one our clients, Farzad Kashi, have been demolished because he was in the hospital at the time of the (alleged) activities."
He also said that the court appearance of the four defendants Tuesday "leads us to be very optimistic."
The defense has called for the acquittal of all those charged, of whom three are not under detention.
Nasseri said Judge Nurani "promised" him that the trial would finish by Thursday and that the verdict would be announced by this time next week.
However, Nasseri was concerned by the arrest and detention on May 31st of two of the Muslim defendants, seeing it as a pretext for delaying the verdict.
These Muslims, for the most part government employees, are said to have provided information to the alleged spies. Their identities have never been disclosed.
Another defense lawyer, Karim Sadeqi, also expressed optimism about the likely outcome of the case, saying "six documents" had been submitted by the prosecution, but the "do not prove anything."
Meanwhile, a delegation of anti-Zionist rabbis, representing a group called Neturei Karta International and led by New York rabbi David Weissa, were cited in the daily Tehran Times as saying they hope to meet with the defendants.
They also said they were ready to meet with Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and with President Mohammad Khatami - SHIRAZ (AFP)
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