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Iran refuses accused Jews to choose lawyers

NEW YORK, March 16 (AFP) - A judge in the Iranian city of Shiraz, who will preside over the trial of 13 Jews on espionage charges, has refused to let them choose their own lawyers, according to a Jewish advocacy group based here.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) said "the judge is insisting on court appointed attorneys."

In Tehran, a spokesman for the Iranian court, Hossein Mir Mohammad-Sadeqi, said on March 9 that the judge had asked the local bar to appoint lawyers after the accused failed to notify the court of their own choice by the legal deadline.

"The deadline has passed for the accused to designate their lawyers," said Mohammad-Sadeqi.

But, according to the conference of presidents, lawyers chosen by some of the prisoners have been unable to visit their clients and, therefore, could not sign the necessary documents.

"It is a violation of the most basic legal and human rights and violates commitments made by the judge and other Iranian officials to allow full legal representation of the defendants by lawyers of their choice," the CPMAJO statement said.

The trial of the 13 Iranian Jews and eight Muslims accused of spying for Israel and the United States is due to open on April 13 before the Revolutionary Tribunal in Chiraz, which hears all national security cases.