Even as efforts continue to gain freedom for 13 Iranian Jews jailed by their government on suspicion of spying, new information is surfacing about 11 other Jews who vanished while attempting to flee Iran illegally between 1994 and 1997.
The information, some of which emerged at a public meeting in Los Angeles last month, is threatening to further fracture an Iranian Jewish community in the United States caught between the impulse to protest, and to stick to silent diplomacy in its efforts to help imperiled brethren.
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.
At the urging of leaders in the Iranian Jewish community here, American Jewish leaders this week suspended their public campaign calling for the release of 13 Jews accused of espionage in Iran.
Instead, they are beginning to implicitly acknowledge the inevitability of a trial for the 13 by shifting their demands to the legal arena.
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.”