It was 8:15 on Saturday morning, and Rabbis Shmuel Fuerst and Moshe Unger of Chicago were dressed in their Sabbath best: beaver-pelt shtreimels, or Polish-style hats on their heads; long black silk caftans draping their bodies; and thin white socks over their black knickers.
But last Saturday morning, these two bearded, ultra-traditional Orthodox Jews were not walking to synagogue on the city's heavily white North Side; they were riding in a car driven by a non-Jewish friend to meet the Rev. Jesse Jackson on the city's mostly black South Side.
After nearly seven months in jail, 13 Iranian Jews imprisoned by their government on suspicion of spying for Israel and the United States faced the prospect of formal charges Thursday.
Iranian Jewish activists here said the government had completed its investigation of the 13 and was prepared to announce its results. They cited Manouchehr Eliassi, the Jewish community’s official representative in Iran’s parliament, as among their sources.
Implicitly rebutting several senior government authorities, the Central Jewish Committee of Iran last week publicly asserted for the first time that 13 Iranian Jews currently imprisoned on suspicion of spying for Israel and the United States are innocent.
Putting its own resources on the line, the committee, which serves as the umbrella group for Iran’s 25,000 Jews, also announced it was prepared to raise money for attorneys to defend the imprisoned Jews.
A longstanding power struggle between Iran’s top leaders crystallized this week over the legal system that will decide the fate of 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel and America.
Offering the first specifics on the case against them, Iran’s foreign minister said Monday that the 13 were arrested “on charges of illegally gathering secret information, including military information, and handing it over to foreigners.”