By Azam Gorgin and Charles Recknagel
An Iranian appeals court yesterday (Thursday) reduced the sentences of 10 Iranian Jews convicted of spying for Israel. The 10 had been convicted of spying and collaboration with the Israeli government, endangering national security, and forming an illegal group. The appeals court collapsed the three convictions into a single conviction, allowing a reduction of time to be served.
RFE/RL's Azam Gorgin spoke with Ismail Nasseri, the defense lawyer in the case, to get his reaction to the ruling. Nasseri was reached by telephone in the southern city of Shiraz, where the appeals court handed down its decision.
Prague, 22 September 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Our correspondent asked Nasseri if, in his opinion, the appeal court's verdict was just. Nasseri said:
"Our expectation from the court was to announce these people's innocence. From the very first moment that we read the case, spoke to the plaintiffs and listened to their testimonies, we presented them as innocent. There is no evidence to prove they are guilty. And even supposing that the preliminary court reasons were correct, one couldn't convict anyone of one act and punish them for three crimes. The appeals court has rejected our appeal for the plaintiff's innocence, but accepted our second reason -- that this is one crime and should have one punishment."
Our correspondent asked if the lawyer planned to lodge further appeals in the case. He answered:
"Yes, if the defendants want to. They can appeal up to one month after their case has been heard."
RFE/RL asked if Nasseri thought pressure from the international community has had any impact on the change of the verdict. He said:
" I think the reasoning that we submitted to the court was simply an elementary- school mathematical calculation. It is evident to all lawyers and those who know law -- one crime, one punishment. You cannot name one action with three different titles and make it punishable three times. I doubt that the international community's pressure has had any effect or impact on its verdict."
Our correspondent asked Nasseri had any fear of defending people who are accused of spying and if he is concerned that public opinion will turn against him. He said:
"We, without fear of public opinion, and in accordance to our consciences, defended these plaintiffs."
Our correspondent asked if has received threats over the case and what was the nature of these threats. He replied:
"The threats were from some personnel involved in establishing this case. Not transient or unknown people. I know them and they know me. The nature of the threats was: we had to accept that the defendants were spies. We responded, you have to present us with evidence, but they could not. We have sworn and are bound by our principles and are ready to pay the price."
Our correspondent asked Nasseri if there had been threats on his life. He said:
"We have had threats on our life, and ourselves have been accused of being a spy, threatened that our license will be revoked, and that ultimately we may be removed from representing the defendants."
Finally, our correspondent asked if Nasseri thinks any of defendants will be pardoned. He replied:
"It depends upon the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. I doubt that the Supreme Leader would want these people to serve their sentences fully."
Nasseri said that he relies on the kindness of the Supreme Leader to grant pardons to the 10 men. He said that if he continues to be the defense lawyer, and his clients request him to do so, his next step would be to contact the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to request a pardon.