Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

25 Sivan 5759 - June 9, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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13 Iranian Jews Including the Rav Arrested for Spying

by A. Zisman and J.Goldman

The Chief Rabbi of south Iran, Rav Zadmar, is among 13 Jews who were arrested and charged with spying for Israel, a capital crime in Iran. According to some reports, they were arrested at their homes in Shiraz the night of the seder. The reports have been circulating for some time, but were only confirmed by Iranian authorities on Monday.

The 13 people from southern Iran ``were accused of spying for the `Zionist regime' and `world arrogance,' references to Israel and the United States respectively," an AP report says. In addition to the rav, the others work in the only Jewish school that is active in Shiraz. Both Jewish and Moslem students study at the school.

Some sources say that more than 13 people were arrested and that the arrested include both teachers and students at the local Jewish school. It is not clear whether the arrested Jews are being charged with collecting information or involvement in attempts to help Jews emigrate.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said much has been done during the past 10 weeks to press the Iranian government to release the detainees.

``We've had intercessions by every government, by every person possible," said Hoenlein, whose organization represents 55 Jewish groups. Advocates have worked with the utmost discretion in the hope that such cover would give Iran the ``chance to back off."

Now, he said, those involved are preparing to ``go all out to respond to what's happening."

The ``high-level intercessions" included representatives of the United Nations, human rights groups, Jewish organizations, humanitarian agencies and business people with interests in the region, Hoenlein said, without elaborating. The Iranian Jewish community in the United States has also been involved, he said.

Israel and the United States have both denied that the espionage charges have ``any validity whatsoever," Hoenlein asserted, although Iranian authorities said that they had documents to substantiate their claims.

Espionage is punishable by death in Iran, the AP report said, noting that in 1997 Iran hanged two people convicted of spying for Israel and America.

The French ambassador recently asked for clarifications in the matter of those imprisoned and some observers said that the Iranian confirmation of the facts is in response to that request.

Although the Iranian radio report apparently did not specify the suspects' religion or nationality, it did say the 13 were living among the Jewish community in the southern Fars province and cited an unidentified official, according to the Associated Press.

But Hoenlein said there could be no doubt that the arrests were directed against ``only Jews. They have not arrested anybody else."

Jewish organizations in the United States, Holland and France have already asked their governments to intercede and have sent letters to Iranian embassies with requests for more information. The BBC's Arabic-language service reported that the U.S. Congress is expected to issue a condemnation of the arrests next week.

The Jewish community in Iran has generally enjoyed good relations with government authorities, and participated last week in events marking the tenth anniversary of the death of the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini.

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