Fate of 7 Iraqis Uncertain; Reports on Possible Executions of Alleged Spies Conflict

Conflicting reports today cast uncertainty over the fate of seven Iraqis, at least two or three of them Jews, who were reportedly sentenced to death over the weekend for allegedly spying for Israel. A report from Damascus quoted Baghdad Radio as saying that there had been no trial and that no executions were scheduled yesterday or today. This ran contrary to reports from diplomatic sources at the United Nations and from Israel that seven were scheduled to die. Dispatches from Beirut today said there was neither confirmation nor denial of impending executions in Baghdad. But Baghdad Radio was reported to have declared that “no power in the world” would prevent Iraq from executing traitors. The broadcast, monitored in Beirut, reportedly said, “Iraq reaffirms anew that it will execute everyone who proves to have been a traitor to his homeland and to have spied for imperialism and Zionism.”

A State Department spokesman said yesterday that the United States Government had unconfirmed reports that additional mass hangings were scheduled in Baghdad but hoped such information proved unfounded. The spokesman, Carl Bartch, said, “As we have made clear on two recent occasions, we are concerned on humanitarian grounds by the circumstances of these trials and executions.” On Jan. 27, 14 Iraqis, nine of them Jews, were hanged for alleged espionage for Israel. Seven more Iraqis–none Jews–were executed on the same charges on Feb. 20.

The New York Times said in an editorial today that “everyone interested in Mideast peace will hope that the Government of Iraq is not dissembling in its disavowal of plans to hang seven more persons” as Israeli spies. The editorial said, “The world will never be convinced that justice was done in secret trials and the whole history of the Middle East agony shows that political executions in such circumstances only breed savage retribution. Certainly, the Iraqis brought only dishonor on themselves by making a monstrous public spectacle of the hangings on similar charges of 14 persons in January and seven more last month…so far as the situation in Iraq is concerned, the interests of all parties would be well served if the remaining Jews were permitted to emigrate to Israel as the Israeli Government has again proposed.”

In Montreal, Canadian Jewry, through its representative organizations, called on international public opinion to act to avert further hangings. A statement issued by the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Federated Zionist Organization of Canada said: “That the remnant of Iraqi Jewry, which is now subject to new persecution reminiscent of the Nazi error, is being further terrorized by the public hangings of its members, is beyond the comprehension of the civilized world.”

In Sao Paulo, the Brazilian Institute for Human Rights urged United Nations Secretary-General U Thant today to intervene with the Iraqi Government. It was “deeply concerned over the Iraqi government’s crimes against human dignity.”

(Other pleas directed to the regime came in a full-page $7,440 New York Times advertisement paid for by children in 17 New York area Jewish religious schools and placed through the Jewish Education Committee of New York; from Italian Foreign Minister Pietro Nenni; and the Dutch Committee For Support of Iraqi Jews, who sought aid via Foreign Minister Dr. Joseph Luns.)

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