WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 1979 (UPI) - President Carter today demanded the immediate release of all U.S hostages in Iran and warned that putting them on trial as spies would further fire "worldwide outrage."
The White House released a blunt statement after Iran released three of the 62 hostages held captive in the U.S. Embassy since Nov. 4.
"The specter has been raised of other American diplomatic hostages being placed on trial," the statement said. "Such a step would be a further flagrant violation of elementary human rights, religious precepts and international law and practice.
"Worldwide outrage at the detention of the hostages would be greatly heightened by any attempt to put these diplomatic personnel on trial."
As the statement was released, Carter kept in touch with his foreign policy advisers from his nearby Camp David retreat where he was spending Thanksgiving week.
The statement warned again that "the government of Iran is responsible for achieving their immediate and safe release and the United States has a right to expect that Iran will do so."
Yesterday, a top White House aide warned that a spy trial of remaining hostages would be illegal and would not force the shah's return to Iran.
"Obviously we're pleased three have gotten out and we're hopeful the 10 can get out soon," said a State Department spokesman. "We're also conscious of the number that will be left."
In a series of interviews with American television network correspondents, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was quoted yesterday as saying "any hostage accused of spying would be tried before the Islamic court ... and those tried as spies will have to accept punishment due them according to Islamic justice."
In response, a White House aide who asked not to be identified said, "The placing of diplomatic personnel on trial would be in violation of the basic standards of international law and it certainly would not change at all the policy of this government."
The State Department, meanwhile, said yesterday several locations were prepared to take care of the released hostages for a period of decompression following their two-week ordeal.
State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said, "Our first concern will be for their physical health. We are going to give them some decompression time where they will not have to face bright lights and microphones until they have had a chance to recover from their experience."
"It's a question of basic humanity," he said
Press secretary Jody Powell told reporters Carter was in contact several times yesterday with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
"Of course he's been getting regular reports," Powell said.