PARIS (May. 16)
Several Syrian Jews were released from prison by the Syrian authorities yesterday according to unconfirmed reports reaching Paris. Some of these reports said all the detained Jews with the exception of former Beirut Jewish community leader Albert Elias were suddenly set free and allowed to return to their homes.
Elias was kidnapped in broad daylight last autumn in downtown Beirut while on his way from his home to the local community building. Though the Syrians have denied holding him or even knowing where he was detained, persistent reports said that Elias was being held in a Syrian military prison on the outskirts of Damascus.
Jewish organizations in Paris, which refuse to be named, confirmed these reports today. According to the reports, nine Syrian Jews, including three women, were set free by the Syrians. Some of them had spent over a year in jail, The organizations explain that the Syrians did not release Elias because of their former claims that they do not hold him. Among those set free are two former teachers at the Alliance Israelite Universelle School in Damascus, Jacques Ariel and Jacques Attar. The Alliance confirmed this report here today, It is not known yet whether the released men will be allowed to leave the country.
A number of non-Jewish personalities including French Senate president Alain Poher have repeatedly intervened in the past to secure the release of the Jewish detainees in Syrian prisons. Should the reports be confirmed, it would appear that their release was partially due to these interventions. The Syrian Embassy in Paris was not prepared to confirm or comment on the report when it was queried here today by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.