Bahai News - 400 demonstrate in Tenafly against Iran's trial of
400 demonstrate in Tenafly against Iran's trial of Jews
Thursday, May 11, 2000
By CHARLES YOO
Six thousand miles from Iran, a community bound by the Jewish faith
rallied on Wednesday to pray for 13 Iranian Jews on trial for allegedly
spying for Israel.
Nearly 400 people -- several hundred Reform
and Orthodox Jews, as well as Catholics, Baha'is, and people of other
faiths -- gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Tenafly, hoping for
divine intervention for the men accused of espionage.
"Any time Jews are in trouble, the Jewish community in the
world stands behind them. We're even here in this weather," Malkie
Aaron, a real-estate broker from Englewood, said as rain pounded the
"We're frightened. God forbid Iran should execute the
men," Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Congregation Ahavath Torah in
Englewood, an organizer of the rally, said before the gathering.
"It's very clear this is a show trial."
One demonstrator, Habib Hosseiry, said he moved to the United
States 21 years ago from Iran. A member of the Baha'i faith and a
teacher in the Elizabeth school system, Hosseiry said he came to the
center "to sympathize with the Jewish community."
"Religious persecution there is very sad," Hosseiry said
of his homeland.
Iran has accused the 13 men, some as young as 18, of spying for
Israeli's Mossad intelligence service because of their religion and
monetary gains. In the Iranian court, the prosecutor is also the
If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death, the
maximum penalty for handing out secret information that weakens national
A handful of the defendants confessed publicly to spying
for Israel, an enemy country of Iran. The first defendant -- a
shoe salesman -- said he was under no duress when he confessed. The man
was shown on state television saying he had received espionage training
Although trials can be open to the public in Iran, this one is
being held behind closed doors because it involves national security.
Defense lawyers for the 13 Jews on trial have questioned the
validity of the confessions and criticized the court, saying the judge
cannot be impartial because of his dual role. Two Jews were hanged three
years ago on similar charges.
Iran has a policy of fierce opposition to Israel. Before the 1979
Islamic revolution, about 80,000 Jews lived in Iran, but only
25,000 remain today. Jews are able to practice their religion, but like
all Iranians, they're forbidden to travel to or have any contact with
New Jersey protesters said that treason, by any means, is
inexcusable. But they questioned the prosecution's timing. The
confessions were probably coerced, they say. It's likely that the trial
was orchestrated by Iranian fundamentalists who are losing clout in the
national Parliament but still control the
country's judicial branch, New Jersey protesters said.
Many North Jersey supporters believed the trial once
again reflects persecution. The defendants have spent more than a year
in solitary confinement, which they say violates human rights.
Those who gathered Wednesday evening came on a short notice.
Organizers phoned every synagogue, temple, and Jewish school in the area
starting May 5, urging them to attend the forum. The rally was
organized by the UJA Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson.
Staff Writer Elise Young contributed to this article.
©Copyright 2000, Bergen Record
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