Amnesty International Confirms That Jews Are in Prison in Iraq; Gives JTA Names

At least 36 Jews under detention in Iraq were identified for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today by Amnesty International, a London-based private organization interested in the rights of political prisoners all over the world. The list contains the names of women and children as well as heads of families, though in some cases spouses and children were identified only by their age. The list refuted a statement from official Baghdad sources on April 12 that no Jews were being held. The Amnesty report, made available to the JTA, described the poor condition of Iraq’s remaining Jews, most of whom, it said, are unemployed. The official Iraqi News Agency confirmed reports today that 16 Jews and five Moslems are to be tried for allegedly attempting to smuggle large sums of money out of the country. The report was the first from official Iraqi sources to state the charges against the Jews. According to the news agency, all have been released on bail. The Iraqi Ambassador here confirmed that 20 Jews have been questions for allegedly trying to leave the country illegally but claimed that all have been released. (In Washington, official sources confirmed that 16 Jews and five Moslems are charged with alleged attempts to smuggle money out of Iraq. The sources also said that several prisoners were released on bail within the past two days and that while Iraq may be technically referring to them as freed they are still under surveillance.) Amnesty International told the JTA that most of the Jews on its list will probably be charged with trying to leave Iraq illegally. Amnesty said a trial date was fixed for some of them but later postponed.

“It is virtually impossible for Jews to obtain passports,” Amnesty said. “Only six Jews have been able to buy their way out; these have all been old, sick and wealthy–the last man to leave paid $3600 to the government on deposit.” Amnesty informed the JTA that it would be sending a mission to Iraq within the next six weeks which would look into the situation of Jews there. A number of Iraqi Jews have been adopted by Amnesty groups in this country as “prisoners of conscience.” The Amnesty report said that though much of Iraq’s anti-Jewish legislation has been revoked in theory, the small Jewish community of about 2500 “lives in fear and suffers extreme economic pressure.” (Other sources place the Jewish population at 4000). The Iraqi Jews are in no way politically motivated, Amnesty said, but “it is very hard for them to obtain licenses to practice their professions or run their businesses. There are only a few Jewish shops left for show. A majority of the Jewish population is unemployed.” The Jews under detention, according to Amnesty International are: Meir Attar, 20, his brother Yousseff, about 20 and their father, Naim, 50; Jacob Abdel Aziz, 60, a lawyer, arrested within the last few months for having allegedly acted as guarantor for several Jews arrested for allegedly trying to leave the country; Sabbah and Karim Ballas, brothers aged about 20; Daoud Besson, a businessman, age unknown; Muaffak Dallah, 20, a businessman; Dr. Albert Hakim, 60, arrested last January along with his nephews Bushra and Said Hakim and his nieces, Farid and Salima Hakim, all aged about 20; Moshe Houri, 56, a businessman and his daughter Gilda, 21.

Also arrested, according to the report are: Ezra Joory, 27, who was arrested in April 1969, tried on unknown charges and acquitted only to be re-arrested recently and confined to Nihaya prison where he reportedly shares a two-sqaure meter cell with two other prisoners. He was believed to have been arrested originally because he was owed a large sum of rent by an Arab who was reluctant to pay. Others under detention are Sheda Khalatchi, 70; Heskel Neqqar, 55, a chemist, his-wife, 45, and their children; Dr. Albert Rabi, 50, arrested last January after an attempt to leave Iraq with his-brother who now lives in the United States; Jamil Shemtob, 52, a businessman arrested last month together with his wife, 45, his 18-year-old son Samia and his daughter, Linda, 23. Jamil was detained for several months about a year ago for trying to leave the country. His brother and two sisters left two years ago and are now living in the U.S. Also arrested are: Heskel Shohet, 65, a retired civil servant held on unknown charges, who suffers from diabetes; Shohet’s wife, Mezlev, 60, was arrested while trying to take special food to her husband in prison; Haroun Smia, 50, a businessman; Shuhar Soffer, 55, an employe of an import-export firm who was arrested two and a half years ago and may be dead; David Toueg, 50, a businessman from Basra who was arrested during the last two months, his wife, 45 and two children under 18; Aboodi Toueg, 40, a businessman, his wife, 35, and two children. The Amnesty report said about 300 Jews have left Iraq illegally during the past year via the northern border with Iran. About 200 went to Israel and the remainder to other countries where they have relatives, according to the report.

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