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Senator Stresses Need for Iran to Improve Human Rights Record in Order to Improve Standing in the Community of Nations

The US Senate unanimously passed a resolution last night condemning the unjust arrest and trial of 13 Iranian Jews who were arrested last year, announced US Senator Charles E. Schumer, the sponsor of the resolution. The 13 Jews include a child and several rabbis and have been accused of spying for Israel and the United States. The resolution was cosponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

"I rise today to denounce - in the strongest terms possible - the sham trial of 13 Jews in Iran accused of espionage," said Schumer yesterday. "Leaders in Tehran must know that the treatment of the Jews on trial will go far in determining the nature of Iran's relations with the US, and its standing in the community of nations."

The 13 Jews were arrested in late March 1999, on the eve of Passover, in the city of Shiraz, Iran. Three of the defendants were tried this week in trials that were closed to all independent journalists, outside media, international observers, and family members. In addition, no evidence was presented at these trials except for taped, dubious confessions If convicted, the accused, who have still not been charged formally, face serious penalties.

"This mockery of truth and justice reached new lows this week," said Schumer. "After a year in prison - isolated, no contact with family or friends, no contact with even a lawyer - three of these men were dragged from the darkness of one of Iran's harshest prisons and stuck in front of cameras to publicly 'confess' to their charges."

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was first elected four years ago on a reform platform and received the support of 80% of Iranian voters in the most recent parliamentary elections. The United States has recently lifted restrictions on many Iranian imports and eased travel restrictions between the two countries and the World Bank is currently considering two Iranian projects, valued at more than $130 million, which have been on hold since 1993. Schumer's resolution urges the Administration to make it clear that Iran must live up to its promise of reform by respecting human rights and that Iran's treatment of the Jews in this case will be a benchmark for U.S.-Iranian relations and for Iran's standing in the community of nations.
"Our Resolution makes it perfectly clear that these innocent men should not be used as pawns in a shifty battle of egos in Iran. They should be released immediately," said Schumer. "The case of the 13 Jews is showing the world how far Iran needs to go before they may even begin to expect to be welcomed into the community of nations."

The Iranian Jewish community has existed for 2,500 years. After the overthrow of the shah in 1979, most Iranian Jews immigrated to Israel and the United States, including many to New York. Today, 6,000 Iranian Jews live in Great Neck, New York alone. Approximately 30,000 Jews currently live in Iran.

"Iran must fully understand that normalized relations with the United States are only a pipedream if persecution such as that enacted upon the 13 Jews accused of spying goes unchallenged," said Schumer. "Today, the voice of the United States Senate has spoken. And we have said unanimously: 'Iran, the world is watching.'"

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