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Stalling tactics in ‘Iran 13′ trial?

NEW YORK, June 19 (JTA) — After a recent setback in the courtroom, Iranian judiciary officials now seem to be stalling for more time before rendering a verdict against the 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel, according to an American advocate.

On June 13, four of the Jews recanted their “confessions,” charging that officials had elicited the admissions through coercion. Moreover, one of the Muslims accused of aiding the Jews refused to corroborate the charge.

Last month, eight of the 13 Jews confessed, with a ninth claiming he gathered, but did not disseminate, information. It seems unlikely the other four will be granted an opportunity to recant their confessions.

Now, the judge is reportedly conferring with a fellow judge on the admissibility of the original confessions.

However, it’s unclear whether the primary judge, who also acts as the prosecutor, is truly laboring over his verdict, or is carrying out a ruse to give the veneer of judicial consensus and that he has not judged alone, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which has lobbied on behalf of the Jews.

“This is the game they play, to keep delaying it and delaying it,” said Hoenlein. “The reason this time may be because they are waiting for a political decision” on what verdict to render, “rather than a judicial decision.”

To keep up the pressure on Tehran, Hoenlein’s organization and the Simon Wiesenthal Center are circulating a petition in which they hope to collect 1 millions signatures demanding the freedom of the “Iran 13.”

The petition is being circulated despite the recent warnings from Iranian judiciary spokesman Hussein Ali Amiri that, although their trial is free and fair, “continuation of voicing such uninformed and biased views of some officials, foreign media and Israeli government may carry as much weight as other evidence presented to the court.”

Regardless of the verdict, sometimes noisy protests in the United States and international condemnation may generate some positive, albeit unintended, consequences within Iran.

In the Iranian parliament, known as the Majlis — recently reconfigured and now dominated by reformists — reformists have introduced a number of proposals to amend the country’s press law.

Among them is one that would allow foreign media and observers into future court trials, according to Hoenlein, noting that the reformists did not specifically mention the trial of the Iranian Jews.

The policy of closed trials, say the legislators, has severely damaged the nation’s international image.

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