High Court is last resort
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Families of missing Iranian Jews want answers

Government-confirmed prisoner exchange agreement with Hizbullah opens Pandora’s box when relatives of 12 missing Iranian Jews appeal to High Court in attempt to prevent government from using last bargaining chip

The prisoner exchange agreement with Hizbullah is opening additional wounds. On Monday, families of the 12 missing Iranian Jews who disappeared while trying to immigrate to Israel in the 90’s will appeal to the High Court of Justice.


They are demanding that no information is provided in the framework of the swap deal about four Iranian diplomats without furthering the search of their close ones, as promised.


Dalia Ravizada, whose father Nuriel disappeared while most likely trying to cross the border to Pakistan on his way to Israel, told Ynet that, “twelve years have passed and we still know nothing about my father.”


He and 11 other Jews throughout the years 1994-1997 simply vanished while assumedly trying to cross a dangerous escape path with the help of smugglers. “It is like the earth swallowed them whole. The government promised to deal with this, but nothing is happening,” said Ravizada. All attempts to locate them have failed.


In 2004, when the media continually reported the actualization of the second stage of the previous agreement with Hizbullah which was to include the release of Samir Kuntar, the families appealed to the High Court against the deal.


The appeal was postponed but the government promised to continue making an effort to receive information regarding their fate. Since then, the families say they have been left in the dark.


“The missing Jews in Iran tried making Aliyah to Israel with the encouragement and assistance of the Israeli government and this is why it is the government’s obligation to do everything possible in order to attain reliable and substantial information that will put an end to these families’ suffering,” said attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, who is representing the families.


‘Only High Court can help us’ 

The case has been silenced for many years and in the past, the family members were told that it is preferable to remain quiet as to not endanger those missing or to harm the chance of attaining information.


However, at the beginning of the decade, they realized that if they don’t talk, nothing will happen. “If we would have gone to the media to begin with, we wouldn’t be discussing 12 missing people today,” said Dariush Salari, brother of Kamran Salari a few years ago to Yedioth Ahronoth.


As part of the current deal, the Israeli government agreed to convey information via the UN, concerning the fate of the Iranian diplomats who disappeared in Beirut during the Lebanon War. “It is our last bargaining chip and we have to find a solution,” said Daliya Ravizada, “no one is responding to our demands and we have no one to turn to anymore – only the High Court can help us.”


Before the government’s decision on Sunday, the family members said that they sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert demanding he does not pass any information on concerning the status of the Iranian diplomats.


“I understand their pain and it is exactly like mine,” said Ravizada referring to the families of kidnapped soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. She also discussed the similar uncertainty regarding her father.


“As long as no body was seen, I believe that he and the others are alive and even if they aren’t, it is not a reason to stop contending with the situation. My father also placed his life in Israel’s hands,” she said.


Attorney Darshan-Leitner emphasized that “we are not appealing against the exchange deal itself. Our hearts, just like the hearts of the whole Israeli nation are with the families of the missing and kidnapped, but the 12 families received a binding promise from the Israeli government. If information is passed on to Iran, as noted, the families’ basic rights will clearly be violated,” she said.


The Prime Minister’s Office said that they will respond to the claims at the High Court.


פרסום ראשון: 06.29.08, 23:21
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