Bahai News -- Baltimore Jewish Times - L.A.-Iranian Jew Arrested In Religious Arsons
14 lyar 5763
16 May 2003
L.A.-Iranian Jew Arrested In Religious Arsons
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
MAY 16, 2003
Leaders of the Iranian Jewish community say they are disturbed that a member of their community is believed to have been responsible for a
string of arson attacks that targeted religious institutions, including synagogues.
At the same time, however, they expressed relief that the attacks apparently were not motivated by anti- Semitism.
Farshid Tehrani, 40, was arrested early last Friday by police, who had been tracking him for a day after receiving a tip linking him to the
five arson incidents in Encino.
During three successive days last week, incendiary devices, described by some as Molotov cocktails, were hurled at the Bahai Faith Community
Center, the Iranian Synagogue, Da'at Torah Educational Center and Valley Beth Shalom, one of the leading Conservative congregations in the Los
About 10 days earlier, a similar attack on the First Presbyterian Church of Encino caused $75,000 to $100,000 in damage, according to the
Los Angeles Times. Damage at the other locations was relatively minor, and there were no injuries.
Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the Iranian American Jewish Federation, told JTA that his community, as "one of the targets of these
attacks, had been extremely concerned that they were hate- or terrorism-related."
But relief over the arrest was mingled "with deep shock at the possibility that the perpetrator might be someone from our community.
"This obviously cannot be the work of a healthy mind," he added.
Tehrani apparently suffered from depression.
"It's disturbing that an Iranian Jewish immigrant is believed to be the perpetrator, but I understand that he had psychological problems,"
said George Haroonian, president of the Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations, said. "You will find this in every community, and it
tells us that we must try to identify such problems early on."
Pooya Dayanim, president of the Iranian Jewish Public Affairs Committee, urged government agencies to channel grants directly to the Iranian
Jewish community to enable it to deal more effectively with mental and other health problems.
Investigation of the attacks was conducted through one of the largest local law enforcement mobilizations in recent history, with more than
150 police, fire department, FBI and other federal investigators working on the case. These included 65 detectives from the L.A. Police
Department's anti-terrorism division.
Police said there was no evidence linking Tehrani to any terrorist groups or causes. One official described him to the L.A. Times as a
firebug with serious personal problems.
"We probably saved a lot of lives in this one," the unnamed official said. "He was heading to something bad."
According to his immediate family, Tehrani came to the United States about 16 years ago and worked hard in his jewelry business in downtown
Los Angeles, until a "depressive disorder" forced him to give up most of his work two years ago.
His younger sister, Sheena Tehrani, described her brother, who is unmarried, as "a kind, caring" man "who just got burned out. There has to
be some mistake. He is not that type of person."
Rabbi Moshe Hafuta of the Da'at Torah Educational Center told the Times that he had been involved in a dispute over an apartment he rented
from Tehrani, and that a blaze, apparently set with lamp fluid, broke out at the apartment in late April.
The Times investigation also reported that the State of California had filed two tax liens against Tehrani, who, in turn, had tried to sue
two judges who had ruled against him.
The fears engendered by the arson attacks motivated congregations and people of all faiths to come closer through meetings and gestures of
Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom noted that when the Molotov cocktail heaved through a sanctuary window at 6:30 a.m. landed a
few feet from the ark, the Hispanic Catholic custodians rushed in to save five Torah scrolls.
In a news conference last Friday evening, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn and police announced that an arrest had been made, but pleaded with
the media not to divulge the suspect's name or background. The Times ignored the request.
This story courtesy the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, www.jta.org.
©Copyright 2003, Baltimore Jewish Times (MD, USA)
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