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U.S. Releases Iranian Jews, but Fear Still Stalks Community

Ten Iranian Jews holding Israeli citizenship have been released on bail after being detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for several days.

The 10 men, together with an unknown number of other Iranian Jews and hundreds of Muslims, were arrested under the USA Patriot Act, which mandates the registration of boys and men from five Muslim countries who are in the United States on temporary visas.

The registration is part of a U.S. attempt to track Middle Eastern men living in the United States.

Zvi Vapni, the deputy consul general at the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles, said Monday that the 10 Israelis were told they might be deported to their “country of origin” — meaning Iran.

Their eventual status has not been determined, but “they are all very frightened and some feel that they were tricked into registering,” Vapni said.

How many other Iranian Jews were detained or released on bail in the Los Angeles area is unknown, said Sam Kermanian, secretary-general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation.

“As of Friday, we were informed that less than 30 Iranians were still being detained, but we do not know whether they are Jews or Muslims,” Kermanian said.

He warned that the Iranian government was exploiting public protests against the INS treatment of detainees to launch media attacks against the United States.

While the INS handling of the registration process, especially in Southern California, has been widely criticized in the U.S. media and by Muslim spokesmen, “We don’t want to be used as a tool by Tehran,” Kermanian said.

The current registration process affects males older than 16 years of age originating from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria.

“We do not question the right of the INS to investigate expired visas or other immigration law violations. However, the allegations of discrimination and human rights violations raised in this case warrant immediate, thorough and open investigation,” Amanda Susskind of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement last Friday.

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