Suspicious Trials in Iran

To the Editor:

The conditions for the Iranian trial of Jews accused of spying (front page, May 2) are indicative of a process in which any confession by those accused has to be considered coerced. Keeping the accused isolated, denying them the presence of a lawyer during interrogation and then staging a media show trial of members of a minority group are age-old methods of coercion and domination by totalitarian regimes.

As a forensic psychiatrist who has occasion to examine torture victims of dictatorships who eventually become asylum seekers in the United States, and as a treating clinician for such victims, I find the current conduct of the Iranian proceedings all too painfully familiar.

Cambridge, Mass., May 8, 2000

The writer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.