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Jews Arrested In Iran As Spies


Israel and the U.S. are both demanding the immediate release of 13 Jews arrested in Iran on charges of espionage, saying the charges are trumped up and may be motivated by anti-Semitism.

The 13 Jews from Shiran and Isfahan in southern Iran were arrested on the eve of Passover and accused of spying for the Zionist regime and world arrogance - references to Israel and the United States, respectively. However, the arrests only became public knowledge on June 7. Those arrested include a rabbi, a ritual slaughterer, and teachers.

In 1997, Iran hanged two people convicted of spying for Israel and the U.S.

Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon sharply denied in New York yesterday that any of the arrested men were involved in espionage. None of them has, or ever has had, any connection with any Israeli intelligence agency, he said.

Washington yesterday denounced the arrests and called on the Iranian government to release the prisoners. Senior government sources said the administration was also working to pressure Iran through various third parties.

New York Jews who maintain close contact with Jewish activists in Iran told Haaretz that the arrests in Shiraz, which by Iranian standards is an assertive Jewish community, might be an attempt to prevent this assertiveness from spreading to other localities in Iran.

As an example of Shiraz’s assertiveness, one source whose business interests require him to keep a close eye on Iran noted that the community had refused to comply with a government demand that it open Jewish-owned businesses on Shabbat and close them on Friday instead. This infuriated the government, he said, and was apparently the motive for the arrests.

However, other Jewish officials in New York said they share the diplomatic view that the arrests are the result of a power struggle between the pro- and anti-reform forces in the Iranian government.

The umbrella organization for Iranian Jews in Israel said that France offers the best hope for the prisoners’ release because of its good relations with Iran. U.S. Jews privately said they are pinning their hopes on France as well for the same reason.

Names of Arrested

1, 2. David (25) and Doni Tefilin (brothers) - 28 - arrested in Shiraz.

3. Javid Beth Jacob - 40 - arrested in Shiraz.

4. Farhad Seleh - community leader arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

5. Nasser Levi Haim - 45 - community leader arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

6. Asher Zadmehror - 48 - community leader arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

7. Navid Bala Zadeh - 16 - arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

8. Nejat Beroukkhim (uncle) - 35 - religious leader arrested in Isfahan, transferred to Shriaz.+

9. Arash Beroukhim (nephew) - religious leader arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

10, 11. Farhad (30) and Faramaz Kashi (brothers) - 34 - arrested in Shiraz.

12. Shahrokh Pak Nahad - 29 - arrested in Isfahan and transferred to Shiraz.

13. Ramin Farzam - 35

Source: Haaretz, (June 9, 1999).