Six of the seven Iranian Jews who have gone before Iran’s Revolutionary Court have “confessed” to spying for Israel.
The first plea of not guilty came Wednesday, as 31-year-old Farzad Kashi, a religion teacher, told the judge he did not pass sensitive material to the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.
Earlier in the day, Kashi’s brother, Faramarz, 35, reportedly admitted he was guilty of such activities.
American advocates for the accused, however, remain adamant that the allegations against all 13 of the Iranian Jews on trial are unfounded. They maintain that the hearings are a scripted political show trial.
The hearings are slated to continue Monday.
That Farzad Kashi pleaded innocent was either part of the script or perhaps a small act of defiance, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“It means Farzad didn’t bend to the pressures being applied,” said Hoenlein, who has closely monitored the hearings.
At the same time, advocates like Hoenlein have a new concern: that the string of admissions — two of which were broadcast on state television, along with pleas for forgiveness and leniency — may be provoking persecution of the community of 25,000 Jews.
There are signs that many Iranians are reacting negatively to the aired confessions.
Media reports from Iran state that Jews — even Jewish children — are now experiencing harassment on the streets, in the workplace and in the schools. There are reports of anti-Jewish graffiti and fears of an economic boycott of Jewish-owned shops.
One Jewish woman, the wife of one of the suspects, reportedly pleaded with photographers outside the courtroom to not take her photo.
“I work at a health clinic, and I don’t want any problems,” she was quoted as saying. “I don’t want people pointing fingers at me.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.