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ìRobin Cook and Tony Blair can encourage the Iranian government of President Khatami in its planned reforms affecting peopleís rights, but should register sharp concern at the use of special courts to hand down long sentences against some journalists and newspaper ownersî,

said Mark Lattimer, Communications Director,

Amnesty International UK.

In particular the UK should urge the Iranian Foreign Minister to clarify the nature of charges against thirteen Jewish Iranians, held since March 1999, and seek assurances that they will be allowed independent legal representation. Without this and similar assurances the UK should make it clear that Iranís judicial authorities continue to tarnish the countryís image.

Background … Large numbers of newspapers and magazines have reportedly been newly published in Iran since May 1997.

… In November 1999 heavy prison sentences were handed down to newspaper director Abdollah Nouri and newspaper editor Mashallah Shamsolaíezin. Nouri, a former Interior Minister and Vice President, was sentenced to five yearsí imprisonment by the Special Court for the Clergy on charges including publishing ëanti-Islamicí

articles and insulting government officials. Shamsolaíezin received three yearsí imprisonment by the Press Court for ëinsulting Islamí, charges apparently brought against the newspaper Neshat for questioning Iranís use of the death penalty. Both are prisoners of conscience

… The Press Court, Islamic Revolutionary Court and Special Court for the Clergy all frequently fall far short of minimum international standards for fair trial

… According to news reports citing Iranian authorities,

thirteen Jewish Iranians (held since around 21 March 1999) have been accused of spying for Israel and the US and will be tried by the Revolutionary Court. Espionage carries the death penalty in Iran.

… Students involved in demonstrations in July 1999 have reportedly been sentenced to death or long prison sentences following unfair trials.

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