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Lebanese Jewish Leader in Syrian Jail; Held Under Inhuman Conditions

The International Conference for Jews in Arab States revealed here that Albert Attalah, a prominent Lebanese Jewish leader who was kidnapped last month in Beirut, is being detained in a Syrian prison under “particularly inhuman conditions.” The Conference, which is headed by the President of the French Senate, Alain Poher, says that “without the slightest doubt, it is obvious now that Mr. Attalah was kidnapped in Beirut in order to be taken and detained in Syria.”

According to reliable sources here, it seems that Attalah, who served as secretary general of the Council of Lebanese Jews, was suspected by the Syrians of having headed a Jewish network engaged in the rescue of Syrian Jews who wanted to flee the country. Attalah, who mysteriously disappeared from a central Beirut street on Sept. 8, was, according to these sources, kidnapped by Syrian agents. Syria has been trying for some time now to crush any Jewish attempt to help its small Jewish community flee abroad. According to the same sources, Attalah, had been drugged and taken across the Lebanese-Syrian border aboard a Syrian ambulance. He has since been detained in a prison belonging to the Syrian “Deuxieme Bureau,” Syria’s official intelligence service.

Lebanese police investigations have finally managed to discover who kidnapped Attalah and where he is currently being detained. Though certain Lebanese political elements have pressed the government to make public its discoveries, Lebanon has up till now refused to do so in order not to worsen its relations with Syria. Jewish circles in Paris, which are now aware of Attalah’s fate, believe that he is held under particularly inhuman conditions in a prison on the outskirts of Damascus.

All foreign interventions on Attalah’s behalf–and there have been a number–have failed up till now to secure his release or even an improvement in the conditions of his detention. The International Conference for Jews in the Arab States also disclosed that 12 Syrian Jews, including four children are also being held by the Syrians on charges of having planned to flee the country. The Conference announced that these 12 people are also being held in particularly odious conditions though they have committed no crime according to Syrian law or constitution.

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