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DATE=5/17/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=IRAN / SPY TRIAL (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-262481 BYLINE=LISA BRYANT DATELINE=CAIRO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The last of ten key Jewish defendants in a spy trial in southern Iran appeared in court today. So far, eight of the 13 Jews on trial have admitted to charges of spying for Israel. From Cairo, Lisa Bryant reports that it's unclear whether the latest defendant has admitted to espionage as well. TEXT: Defense lawyer Esmail Nasseri said Javid Bent- Yacoub has admitted to collecting photographs of Iranian military and industrial facilities for Israel. But, his lawyer said, Mr. Bent-Yacoub said he was unaware that doing so amounted to espionage. Lawyer Nasseri also said his client had denied charges that he was a member of a spy ring, or had carried out propaganda against the Iranian government. Instead, Mr. Bent-Yacoub reportedly said he had shared the material with a group that met only for religious worship. But Iran's official news agency said Mr. Bent-Yacoub had admitted to spying, in an interview Wednesday afternoon. It said the man told the news agency he had begun spying for Israel in 1981, and that he had met with Israeli intelligence agents on one or two occasions. The agency also reported Mr. Bent-Yacoub said religious sentiment drove him to send information to Israel through an espionage network. The conflicting reports about Mr. Bent-Yacoub's confessions mirror the larger confusion surrounding the spy trial, which began last month in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz. At least eight of the 10 Jews who have appeared in court so far have pleaded guilty. One has pleaded innocent. Three other Jewish suspects, along with nine Muslims have not yet appeared in court. International Jewish and human rights groups, along with foreign governments, have expressed concern about the closed-door proceedings. Defense lawyers argue that apart from the guilty pleas, the court has no evidence to support charges that the Iranian Jews spied for Israel. For its part, the Israeli government says the charges are unfounded. International groups also fear those found guilty could be sentenced to death. But court officials say none of the defendants so far has been charged with a crime that could carry the death penalty. The Shiraz spy trial is only part of a larger turmoil in Iran, where political moderates and conservatives are battling for power. Moderates have recently swept the polls in a second round of parliamentary elections. But the conservative Press Court has also dampened the reformist voice, by shutting down more than a dozen moderate publications, including one this week. At another court in the capital Tehran Wednesday, five men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 15 years on charges of attempting to kill newspaper publisher Saeed Hajjarian. Mr. Hajjarian -- a moderate who is closely allied to Iranian President Mohammed Khatami -- is recovering from the shooting attack. (Signed) NEB/lb/gm 17-May-2000 14:34 PM EDT (17-May-2000 1834 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .