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Iranian Jews celebrate New Year while relatives languish in prison

Posted: Friday, October 06, 2000

SHIRAZ, Iran (AP) -- As Jews in this southern Iranian city went to synagogue this week to celebrate the High Holy Days, some visited the local prison to meet relatives who have been convicted of spying for Israel.

For the first time since their loved ones were detained more than a year ago, the Jews were allowed to take food to the inmates, said Jalal Soleimani, head of Shiraz's Jewish community.

Some 6,000 Jews live in Shiraz, a city of 16 synagogues 550 miles south of Tehran, the Iranian capital.

Ten Jews were found guilty in July of spying for Israel and given sentences of four to 13 years in prison. In September, an appeals court revised the conviction to cooperating with Israel and reduced the sentences to a maximum of nine years.

The closed-door trial in which the prosecutor was also the judge was condemned by Israel, which denied any of the Jews were its agents, and by the United States and human rights groups. The case was seen as a show of power by hard-line clerics jostling with reformists.

Jews in Iran have a tradition of eating apples, honey, pomegranates, fish and beans at festivals. And those going to the Shiraz prison took plenty of these, Soleimani said.

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