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Jew dies in Iranian custody

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LOS ANGELES, Nov. 17 (JTA) — The mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of an Iranian Jew from Los Angeles after his arrest in Tehran are baffling his family and community leaders here.

Sepehr Ebn Yamin, 44, died Nov. 7 while in the custody of Iranian authorities, and his body was turned over to the Jewish community in Tehran and buried there.

Initially, Iranian authorities said Ebn Yamin had died of a heart attack — but they revised the story later to say that he had committed suicide.

The deaths of political dissidents in Iran are frequently attributed to heart attacks or suicides, a source said.

Sources do not believe that there is any connection between the death of Ebn Yamin and the case of the 13 Iranian Jews who were arrested earlier this year in Tehran on charges of spying for Israel.

Ebn Yamin had returned to his native Iran about six years ago to take over a small bicycle factory near Tehran run by his father and a Muslim partner, said Sam Kermanian, secretary-general of the American Iranian Jewish Federation in Los Angeles.

Ebn Yamin apparently had previous heart problems, according to his wife and two daughters in Los Angeles.

They initially accepted that he had died of a heart attack, but became suspicious when the diagnosis was changed to suicide.

They refused to permit an autopsy on religious grounds.

The reason for Ebn Yamin’s arrest is also not clear, but sources here speculate that it was based on a business dispute with his Muslim partner.

Pooya Dayanim, a spokesman for the Council of Iranian Jewish Organizations in Los Angeles, noted that a dispute with a Muslim partner may also have triggered the death of another Jewish businessman, Mansur Nejathaym.

Nejathaym was killed in his Tehran home in August, but his death remained unknown here until this week.

A memorial service for Ebn Yamin was held in Los Angeles on Sunday. He was a distant relative of Ezatollah Delijani, president of the American Iranian Jewish Federation.

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