Beliefnet
TEHRAN, Iran, Sept. 21 (AP)--An appeals court has reduced the sentences of 10 Iranian Jews found guilty of spying for Israel, the judiciary announced Thursday, casting aside two of the three charges on which they were convicted in a trial that won international condemnation.

Branch 9 of the appeals court in Fars province, where the Jews were tried, reduced their prison terms from a range of four to 13 years, to terms of two to nine years, provincial judiciary chief Hossein Ali Amiri said. He said the time already served would be included in the sentences.

The case, seen as a show of increasing power by the hard-line clergy in this Muslim country, attracted international attention, with countries such as the United States and France as well as human rights organizations and Jewish groups urging Iran to ensure the trial was fair.

Jurists have questioned whether the trial could be fair when there was no jury and the judge also acted as prosecutor.

``It remains now for those same nations to protest the wrongful upholding of the conviction of those people who are incarcerated,'' Phil Baum, executive director of the New York-based American Jewish Congress told The Associated Press in Cairo, Egypt.

The appeals court upheld the conviction of cooperating with Israel but found the 10 men innocent of membership in an illegal spy ring and recruitment of new agents, Amiri said.

``These sentences are the lowest possible sentences and we have used the ultimate of Islamic kindness and generosity. According to the law, these charges could have brought execution,'' Amiri told The AP from the southern city of Shiraz, where the trial took place.

Esmail Naseri, lawyer for the Jews, maintained that none of his clients is guilty of any of the charges.

``The court has admitted our argument that all the charges against the 10 Jews were only one charge, but we still believe that they are all innocent,'' Naseri said from Shiraz.

Dani Tefilin, a shoe salesman, and Asher Zadmehr, a university professor, who both received the highest prison terms of 13 years in July, had their sentences reduced to nine and seven years respectively, Amiri said.

Of the eight others, the sentence for civil servant Nasser Levihaim was reduced from 11 to seven years; Ramin Farzam, a store clerk, 10 to eight years; shopkeeper Javid Bent-Yacoub, nine to six years; shopkeeper Farhad Seleh, eight to six years; religion teacher Shahrokh Paknahad, eight to five years; religion teacher Farzad Kashi, eight to six years; Faramarz Kashi, five to three years; and shoe clerk Ramin Nematizadeh, four to two years. Three other Jews were acquitted when the verdicts were handed down July 1.

``We were expecting more cuts in the sentences approved by the appeals court,'' said Jalal Soleimani, the head of Shiraz Jewish Community. ``Still, we are hoping for greater Islamic mercy from the authorities. We also expect the Supreme Court to restudy the sentences approved by the appeals court in order to reduce the latest sentences.''

But Amiri said the court's decision could not be appealed.

Baum said no death sentences were issued only because Iran came under international scrutiny and pressure.

``This trial was invalid from the very beginning,'' he said. ``The Iranians found it necessary to convict some Jews and therefore those 10 are paying that price. We believe there was no ground to support the convictions of any one of the 10. As long as a single one of them remains in jail a great injustice is being perpetrated.''

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