NEW YORK, June 13 (JTA) Four of the 13 Iranian Jews accused of spying for Israel retracted their “confessions” in court this week, according to an American advocate.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish organizations, said that Shahrokh Paknahad, Farzad Kashi, Nasser Levi Haim and Farhad Saleh told Judge Sadeq Nourani on Tuesday that their “confessions” had been made under duress.
“We should not be overly optimistic about these reports, but these are certainly positive developments,” said Hoenlein, whose organization has long contended that all 13 Jews are innocent and has been active in advocating on their behalf, publicly and behind the scenes.
Also on Tuesday, a Muslim accused of collaborating with the Jews denied the charge.
Reuters quoted the Jews’ attorney, Esmail Nasseri, as saying that the court proceedings “were of benefit to our clients and strengthen the defense team’s assertions that our clients are not guilty.”
Pooya Dayanim, a spokesman for the Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations in Los Angeles, said the Jewish community in Shiraz is “becoming more confident every day.”
“Our hope is that the other people who allegedly confessed can be brought to court so they can recant their confessions as well,” he said.
Advocates for the Jews have long contended that the 13 are innocent. When nine of them “confessed” last month, observers insisted that the Jews were coerced after having spent 15 months in solitary confinement, with human contact limited mostly to interrogators.
The Jews were arrested more than a year ago and three were released on bail in February.
The trial was closed to the public and the judge also assumed the role of investigator, prosecutor and jury. That would be considered a clear conflict of interest under Western law.
A verdict is expected at the end of next week. It was originally scheduled for this week, but was delayed because of Tuesday’s hearing. Another hearing was scheduled for Thursday.
Tuesday’s development came as Jews around the United States were holding prayer vigils on behalf of the Iranian Jews.