17 Jews Arrested in Tunisia

The Tunisian daily “Al Alam” reported today that several French and Tunisian Jews have been arrested and charged with illegal dealings in foreign currencies. The paper, official publication of the governmental “Neo Destur” Party said that altogether 10 people have been arrested, “most of whom are Jews.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned from Tunisian Jews now in Paris that contrary to the “Al Alam” report 17 Jews have been arrested. These include members of such prominent Tunisian Jewish families as the Memis, Souyia and Bokhobzas. Most of those arrested and still detained at the Tunis Central Prison are accused of having tried to smuggle out foreign currencies. Some are charged with transferring moneys to Israel. According to these sources, five other Tunisian Jews wanted by the local police have managed to flee abroad and are now in France.

The 17 were arrested after customs officials last week searched the diplomatic pouch of the South Korean Embassy in Tunis. The pouch was found to contain, according to sources, more than $1 million as well as documents enumerating peo- ple sending money abroad. It also included a “code list” of banking accounts in Switzerland, France and Israel.

Families of the arrested men have appealed to Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba to intervene on their behalf. Bourguiba, according to these sources, has refused, saying that the case was a “financial criminal incident not related to the status of the Jewish community there.” In spite of this assurance, a number of Tunisian Jews have already left the country and have applied for permission to settle in France. The sources say that more Tunisian Jews plan to leave their homes for either France, the United States or Israel. There are about 8000 Jews left in Tunisia.

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