The Iraqi regime defied world public opinion today, ignored the expression of shock and horror voiced throughout the Western world and announced that the hanging of 14 Iraqi nationals, nine of them Jews, on charges of espionage for Israel, would be followed by further trials. Baghdad Radio reported today that “other spies will be tried soon” and Information Minister Abdullah el-Samarrai was quoted as saying that 65 others will be put on trial allegedly for spying for Israel and plotting against the Iraqi regime.
The brutual hangings and public display of the bodies of the victims in Baghdad and Basra on Monday evoked shocked and horrified protests in all the Western capitals. Late today there was, however, no comment from Moscow or the satellite Communist capitals. What angered diplomats of many countries was the fact that the death sentences had been executed while the Iraqi authorities were still giving assurances that the pleas for clemency made by other governments were receiving consideration.
The Iraqi regime, in rejecting foreign intercessions made on humanitarian grounds and, in the case of United Nations Secretary General U Thant, also on grounds that execution of the death sentences would seriously jeopardize current Middle East peace-making efforts, argued that the trial, conviction and hanging of the 14 men was an internal Iraqi affair and neither the United Nations nor any foreign power had the right to intervene. The Iraqi acting permanent representative to the United Nations. Adnan Raouf, on Monday challenged the right of Mr. Thant to speak of a situation which, he asserted, was “entirely an internal affair.”
Following the Iraqi reaction to his statement expressing “regret and concern” over the hangings, Mr. Thant told a press conference today that he had no intention of bringing the case before the Security Council or any other UN deliberative organ. He said he agreed with the Iraqi position that the executions were an internal affair, but he said he had made his statement for humanitarian reasons and because the executions might hurt efforts to obtain a “just and lasting” settlement of Arab-Israel issues.
The hangings focused attention on the role of the UN in protecting the persecuted Jewish minorities in the Arab states. Foreign Minister Abba Eban, in a note delivered to Mr. Thant Monday night by Ambassador Joel Barromi, acting permanent representative of Israel, noted pointedly that Israel for some time had been deeply concerned over the treatment of the Jews in Iraq and had placed the facts before appropriate agencies of the UN, but that these bodies had failed to act. Mr. Eban referred to repeated Israeli requests that the special envoy the UN wanted to send to the Middle East to study the treatment of the civilian population in the areas occupied by Israel should also be instructed to study the plight of the Jewish minorities in the Arab states.
The New York Board of Rabbis made the point even more bluntly in a telegram to Mr. Thant thanking him for his humanitarian stand. “How many more murders of Jews in Arab countries must take place before the UN concerns itself with their plight?” the board asked the Secretary-General.
SECRETARY OF STATE ROGERS TERMS MASS EXECUTIONS ‘REPUGNANT’
In Washington, State Department sources disclosed that the United States, which has no diplomatic relations with Iraq, interceded through India, which represents Iraqi interests in Washington, before the hangings. Secretary of State William P. Rogers termed the “spectacle of mass executions” in Iraq “repugnant to the conscience of mankind” and had the American representative to the UN, Ambassador Charles Yost, called on the Secretary-General to tell him that the U.S. shared the sentiments he had expressed in his statement Monday. The U.S. also interceded with the Iraqi regime through the Belgian Embassy in Baghdad which represents American interests in that country. The embassy reported to Washington that the American protests had been ignored. Iraq ruptured diplomatic ties during the June, 1967 war.
In London, Lord Chalfont, Minister of State, told the House of Lords that Her Majesty’s Government deplored the hangings in Iraq. Foreign Minister Michael Stewart received a delegation today representing the Board of Deputies of British Jews and including Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jacobovits and the Haham, Dr. Solomon Gaon, to discuss the threat of further executions hanging over Iraqi Jews.
At the Vatican, the Vatican organ, L’Osservatore Romano revealed that Pope Paul VI had interceded through an emissary in Baghdad before the sentences were announced. Later, it was hoped that the sentences would be commuted, the paper said. It added that “it is not our intention to interfere in the internal life of nations, but it is our right and duty to affirm that such events introduce a new and profound breach in a situation already exacerbated by hatred.”
In Paris, the French Government revealed that it had taken unofficial action to persuade the Iraqi regime not to execute the death sentences. The JTA correspondent was informed that the French Ambassador in Baghdad twice called on the Iraqi Foreign Minister to intervene for the accused on humanitarian grounds. On both occasions he was given non-committal answers which were interpreted in Paris as indicating that the regime had taken the French intercession into consideration and would act accordingly. President Charles de Gaulle, it was reported, had privately expressed his “surprise and dissatisfaction” over the Iraqi killings.
In Rome, Foreign Minister Pietro Nenni, who had intervened with the Iraqis for the condemned men, said today that the executions deeply disturbed the conscience of the nation.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.