Palestinian activist convicted of immigration fraud in Detroit


A Palestinian activist was found guilty on Monday of immigration fraud for failing to reveal to U.S. authorities that she had been convicted and served time in Israel for a 1969 supermarket bombing that killed two people.

After a trial last week in a federal court in Detroit, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 67, was convicted of unlawful procurement of naturalization, said Ron Hansen, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Odeh, who is currently free on bail, faces 10 years in prison and would lose her U.S. citizenship. The judge will hold a bail revocation hearing before setting a date for sentencing for Odeh, who also goes by the spelling Rasmea for her first name.

“Make no mistake. Rasmea came under attack by the U.S. government because she is Palestinian, and because for decades, she has organized for Palestinian liberation and self-determination,” the Rasmea Defense Committee, which has supported her during the trial, said in a statement on Monday.

Dozens of supporters had traveled to Detroit for her trial and they rallied on her behalf outside the federal courthouse on Monday. The defense committee said it was unfair that Judge Gershwin Drain had not allowed Odeh to tell the jury that she confessed to the supermarket bombing allegedly under torture by the Israeli military.

The Israel Law Center, which said it helped U.S. prosecutors in the case, said Odeh received a fair trial and should receive the maximum sentence.

“During the course of the proceedings her defense changed several different times and in the end tried to politicize the case and make it like she was a victim of torture, and not that she intentionally lied on her application to deceive the U.S. government,” the center's director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said in a statement.

Odeh has lived almost two decades in the United States and served as associate director of a Chicago-area community organization called the Arab American Action Network.

Federal prosecutors said she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated from Jordan in 1995 and again when she was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Odeh and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were convicted by an Israeli military court for the supermarket bombing and for placing a bomb at the British Consulate in Jerusalem.

Israeli Arab pleads guilty to Tel Aviv bus bomb


An Israeli Arab pleaded guilty on Monday to planting a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus a year ago, during Israel's eight-day offensive in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, an Israeli court said.

The bomb detonated as the bus was driving near the Israeli defence ministry, wounding 15 people.

The Tel Aviv District court accepted a plea deal from Mohammed Mafarja, 19, and convicted him of attempted murder, attempting to assist the enemy and assault, the ruling said.

Mafarja, who was accused of working on behalf of Islamist group Hamas, will be sentenced at a later date, the court said.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; editing by Patrick Graham

Nechemya Weberman convicted on 59 counts of sexual abuse


Nechemya Weberman, a member of the Satmar Chasidic community in Brooklyn who practiced therapy without a license, was found guilty on 59 counts of sexual abuse.

Weberman, 54, was convicted Monday by a New York State Supreme Court jury for encounters he had with a female patient when she was between the ages of 12 and 15. He was charged initially on 88 counts, but the number was consolidated by Justice John Ingram, who presided over the case.

No physical evidence was presented during the trial, effectively leaving the prosecution to make the case based on the credibility of the accuser's testimony.

The encounters started in 2007; the accuser turned 18 last week.

The girl's parents sent her for sessions to Weberman, an unlicensed therapist, at the recommendation of the child's school. According to the New York Daily News, the girl was referred for not meeting her sect's strict modesty guidelines regarding women's dress and asking questions about the existence of God.

The trial drew attention for a couple of unusual developments over the last several months.

In June, four men from the Satmar community were arrested for allegedly offering the accuser $500,000 in an attempt to silence her. And on Nov. 30, four spectators at the trial were arrested for taking photos of the accuser during her testimony, including a man by the name of Lemon Juice.

For Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who came under fire in June for his handling of prosecuting sex offenders in the haredi Orthodox community, it was his second high-profile conviction in a week.

On Dec. 3, Emanuel Yegutkin, the ex-principal of the Brooklyn-based Elite High School, was convicted on all charges of sexual abuse stemming from his relationship with three boys between 1996 and 2005, including one who was 7 at the time.

Leiby Kletzky’s killer sentenced to 40 years to life


Levi Aron, the Brooklyn store clerk who pleaded guilty to killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.

Aron, 37, was sentenced Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court. He did not address the court.

He pleaded guilty earlier this month to kidnapping, killing and dismembering Leiby near his home in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn in July 2011. Aron’s attorney at first had attempted to pursue an insanity defense; Aron reportedly has a history of mental illness.

Leiby’s family did not attend the sentencing, The Associated Press reported. A statement from his father, Nachman Kletzky, that was read in court said that “God did not abandon our son nor our family for one second.”

Leiby, making his first attempt to walk home alone from camp, had stopped to ask Aron for directions and entered his car. Less than 48 hours later, the search for the boy came to a grisly conclusion when parts of his dismembered body were found in the freezer of Aron’s apartment in the nearby Kensington section of Brooklyn.

Leiby Kletzky’s killer pleads guilty


Levi Aron, the Brooklyn man accused of killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Aron is facing at least 40 years in prison, according to The New York Times. Originally he had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of murder and kidnapping.

Despite Aron’s history of mental illness, New York State Supreme Court Justice Neil Firetog told the defendant on Thursday that “a defense of not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect would not be a viable defense,” the Times reported.

“Today we close the door on this one aspect of our tragedy and seek to remember only the gifts that God has bestowed,” Brooklyn state Assemblyman Dov Hikind said Thursday, “including the nine years Leiby was with us.”

Aron, 36, was charged with murdering Leiby near his home in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn in July 2011. The boy, making his first attempt to walk home alone from camp, had stopped to ask Aron for directions and entered his car. Less than 48 hours later, the search for Leiby came to a grisly conclusion when parts of his dismembered body were found in the freezer of Aron’s apartment in the Kensington section of Brooklyn.

Tucson gunman Loughner pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder


A 23-year-old college dropout pleaded guilty on Tuesday to killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in an Arizona shooting rampage last year, and will be spared the death penalty in exchange.

Jared Loughner entered his guilty pleas in federal court in Tucson shortly after he was ruled mentally competent to stand trial on charges, including first degree murder, by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.

“I plead guilty,” Loughner, dressed in a khaki prison jumpsuit, said to each of the 19 counts read in court by Burns.

Giffords, a U.S. representative from Arizona who was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, was meeting constituents at a Tucson supermarket on Jan. 8 last year when she was shot through the head at close range. The six people killed include a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors, who originally charged Loughner with 49 criminal counts, have agreed not to seek the death penalty against him. Burns will sentence Loughner on Nov. 15, and he could face multiple terms of life in prison.

The 19 counts he pleaded guilty to include murder, attempted murder and the attempted assassination of Giffords.

During an exchange with the judge before formally entering his plea, Loughner admitted going to the Congress-on-your-corner event hosted by Giffords armed with a Glock pistol with a plan to kill the congresswoman.

He also admitted shooting other people there with the intention to kill them because they had attended the event.

GIFFORDS SATISFIED WITH PLEA ARRANGEMENT

Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, said in a statement before the hearing that the couple had been in touch with federal prosecutors and were “satisfied” with the plea agreement.

“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives,” Kelly said.

Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, won a special election to fill her seat in June and will face re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Geneva on July 25. Photo by REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Barber was in court for the hearing but Giffords did not attend.

“It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pre-trial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement following the hearing.

“In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law,” Holder said.

Loughner was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom. Court-appointed experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

He has since been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he has been forcibly medicated to treat psychosis and restore his fitness to face proceedings in his prosecution.

Additional reporting by Jazmine Woodberry, Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom

Jared Loughner to plead guilty in Arizona shooting spree


Jared Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, is set to plead guilty in a Tucson court on Tuesday, a person familiar with the case said.

The source confirmed that the federal government believed Loughner was now competent to stand trial and will argue that in court on Tuesday. Loughner is willing to change his plea to guilty at the previously scheduled hearing, the source said.

Psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner were scheduled to testify in a mental competency hearing on Tuesday that he was competent to stand trial and understood the 49 charges against him, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix said he could “neither confirm nor deny” whether Loughner would plead guilty.

The team of four attorneys representing Loughner had not responded to emailed requests for comment.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat seen as a rising star in the party, was holding one of her regular “Congress On Your Corner” events at a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot through the head at close range by a gunman who killed six other people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

Loughner, 23, is charged with 49 criminal offenses including first-degree murder over the shooting rampage, which wounded 13 people. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last year.

The Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Loughner would plead guilty, said Tuesday’s mental status hearing had been changed to a change-of-plea hearing, citing an official familiar with the case.

If U.S. District Judge Larry Burns were to determine at Tuesday’s hearing that he was fit for trial, Loughner – who is being forcibly medicated to treat his psychosis – could face the death penalty if found guilty.

The Los Angeles Times said it was unclear on the details of the plea arrangement, or whether Loughner would plead guilty to all or just some of the charges in exchange for prison time rather than risk being sentenced to death at trial.

Tuesday’s hearing was to be Loughner’s fourth to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency.

The college dropout was determined unfit for trial in May 2011 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

Loughner has been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he is forcibly medicated against his will to treat psychosis and make him fit for trial.

Giffords resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide Ron Barber won a special election to fill her seat and will have to win re-election in November to serve a full two-year term.

Reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Karen Brooks in Austin and David Ingram in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jackie Frank and Anthony Boadle

Leiby Kletzky’s accused killer to plead guilty


The Brooklyn, N.Y.-man accused of killing 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky is expected to plead guilty.

Levi Aron will face at least 40 years in prison, according to Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

A law enforcement official close to the investigation confirmed the details, according to news reports.

A plea is expected Tuesday.

Aron, 35, is charged with murdering Leiby near his Brooklyn home. He said he picked up the haredi Orthodox boy in his car when the boy became lost July 11, 2011 while walking home from camp for the first time and asking for directions. Aron said he panicked after the boy was reported missing.

Parts of Leiby’s dismembered body were found in the freezer of Aron’s apartment.

Hikind told the Wall Street Journal the Leiby’s family satisfied that Aron “will likely spend the rest of his life in prison” and was in favor of the plea agreement.

“The family wants justice,” Hikind said, “but nothing is going to bring Leiby back.”

‘Jewish Indiana Jones’ pleads guilty in Torah fraud case


Rabbi Menachem Youlus, who was dubbed the “Jewish Indiana Jones” for his remarkable tales of rescuing Holocaust-era Torah scrolls, pleaded guilty to fraud.

Youlus’ accounts turned out to be contradicted by historical evidence, witness accounts and records showing that he simply passed off used Torahs sold by local dealers who made no claims as to the scrolls’ provenance.

“I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct,” said Youlus, who pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.

In court, the 50-year-old Baltimore resident admitted to having defrauded more than 50 victims, misappropriating some of the donations and secretly depositing them into the bank account of his Wheaton store, called the Jewish Bookstore. Youlus defrauded his charity, Save A Torah, Inc. and its donors of $862,000, according to prosecutors.

“Menachem Youlus concocted an elaborate tale of dramatic Torah rescues undertaken by a latter day movie hero that exploited the profound emotions attached to one of the most painful chapters in world history—the Holocaust—in order to make a profit. Today’s guilty plea is a fitting conclusion to his story and he will now be punished for his brazen fraud,” Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Thursday.

A January 31, 2010 Washington Post investigative report brought to light questions about Youlus’ claims.

Financial exec Rubin pleads guilty


David Rubin, chairman of the board of Yavneh Hebrew Academy in Hancock Park and president of YULA girls’ high school, pleaded guilty in federal court in New York on Dec. 30 to wire conspiracy and fraud involving proceeds from municipal bonds. Beverly Hills-based CDR Financial Products, which Rubin founded and runs, pleaded guilty to related antitrust charges.

Rubin, 50, could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. CDR could face a fine of $100 million. Rubin will be sentenced April 27.

Rubin had been scheduled to go to trial in New York on Jan. 3. He had asked U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero to delay the trial so he could care for his wife, Gitel, who has pancreatic cancer. The Rubins, who live in Hancock Park, have seven children, ranging in age from 2 to 24.

When the judge denied the request for a continuance and Rubin lost that motion again on appeal, Rubin opted to plead guilty so he could be home focusing on his family rather than in New York for the trial.

According to a close friend who declined to be identified, Rubin has maintained his innocence throughout the legal proceedings, and had wanted to stand trial to fight the charges. But friends and family convinced him to agree to a plea that will likely keep Rubin out of prison.

At the end of the hearing, when the judge wished Rubin’s wife well, Rubin burst into tears, the friend said.

CDR had developed a niche as a broker helping state, county and local agencies invest money raised from bonds.

In pleading guilty, Rubin admitted that, from 1998 to 2006, his Beverly Hills-based firm awarded lucrative contracts to investment management firms that paid CDR. Prosecutors said CDR did not run a fair, competitive bidding process, but instead channeled information that would aid money managers who paid to play, according to the Department of Justice. CDR also solicited intentionally losing bids, and signed certifications that contained false statements regarding whether the bidding process complied with relevant Treasury Department regulations, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

The actions cost taxpayers money because the contracts did not always go to the firms that would offer the best returns, according to the Justice Department.

Rubin’s attorney could not be reached for comment, but Rubin’s friend said the case is complex and involves a government sweep of an industry that for years has been operating according to widely held practices.

Rubin had been confident he could beat the charges, the friend said.

Rubin, along with Zevi Wolmark, the former chief financial officer and managing director of CDR, and Evan Zarefsky, a vice president of CDR, were indicted in October 2009. Wolmark and Zarefsky began trial on Jan. 3.

“Mr. Rubin and his company engaged in fraudulent and anticompetitive conduct that harmed municipalities and other public entities,” said Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Today’s guilty pleas are an important development in our continued efforts to hold accountable those who violate the antitrust laws and subvert the competitive process in our financial markets.”

Rubin is the 10th individual to plead guilty in an ongoing federal investigation into the $3.7 trillion municipal bonds industry, under President Barack Obama’s interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that coordinates the efforts of the Department of Justice, the FBI and the IRS.

So far, the Justice Department has filed charges against 18 former executives of financial-services firms. With Rubin, 10 have pleaded guilty. JPMorgan Chase, USB, Wells Fargo and GE have paid $743 million in restitution and penalties.

Rubin has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates in the past decade. He was a fellow of the Wexner Heritage Foundation in the late 1990s and has been an activist and philanthropist in the area of Jewish education. He was the driving force behind moving Yavneh into the former Whittier Law School building on Third Street and Las Palmas Drive in 1998, and improving the school’s academic and religious standards. He also has been involved in revitalizing the lay leadership at YULA girls’ school. Friends estimate that over the last 10 years, he has given more than $10 million to Jewish institutions.

Second Palestinian pleads guilty in Fogel murders


A second Palestinian man has pleaded guilty to the murder of five members of the Fogel family in a West Bank Jewish settlement.

Amjad Awad, 19, pleaded guilty to the murders Tuesday during a hearing in a West Bank military court. The judges said they would examine the evidence in the case before convicting Awad on his own admission of guilt in the March 11 murders in Itamar.

Awad’s cousin, Hakim Awad, 18, was sentenced last month to five consecutive life sentences, equal to 130 years in prison, in the deaths. He also had pleaded guilty.

Both Awads are from the Palestinian village of Hawarta, located near Itamar.

Udi Fogel, 36, and Ruth Fogel, 35, and their children, Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, 3 months, were killed in a Shabbat eve attack on their home in the northern West Bank. Three other Fogel children survived the attack.

‘Irvine 11’ students found guilty [UPDATE: SENTENCING]


[UPDATED: 3:00 p.m.]  This story has been updated to add the recent sentencing of the convicted students.

After two days of deliberation, the jury in the “Irvine 11” case returned a verdict. An Orange County jury on Friday found 10 Muslim students guilty of two misdemeanors, conspiring to and then disrupting a speech given on Feb. 8, 2010, by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine.

As the verdict was read Friday morning, several women broke down in tears and others walked out of Superior Court Judge Peter J. Wilson’s courtroom. As the gallery showed a great deal of emotion, the students remained calm and had no reaction.

Two hours later, Wilson sentenced each of the 10 defendants to three years of informal probation and 53 hours of community service.

Popularly known as “Irvine 11” — charges against an 11th co-defendant were tentatively dropped — the case has stirred a heated and sensitive debate on free-speech rights. On one side, Orange County Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner argued that Oren was “shut down.” On the other, six defense attorneys argued that the students acted within the law and were exercising their right to free speech.

Reem Salahi, one of the defense attorneys, representing two of the students, said, “This is merely an admonition to be polite. But in America, we don’t prosecute people for being impolite.”

Orange County Jewish Federation & Family Services President and CEO Shalom C. Elcott said, “The verdict reaffirms that the Muslim Student Union’s planned and systematic use of disruptions to trample on the free speech of others crossed the moral, social and intellectual line of civility and tolerance. While we accept the right and requirement of a public institution to provide an unfettered forum for diverse points of view, we do not, nor will we ever, support ‘hate speech.’ ”

Shalom said he will continue to advocate for “constructive dialogue in place of the hateful rhetoric that’s been used under the guise of free speech. It is counterproductive to any and all efforts to ensure the free exchange of ideas.”

Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council, disagrees with Shalom, calling the “Irvine 11” guilty verdict the “death of democracy in our country.”

Ameena Qazi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said, “When history books are written and this case comes to its final conclusion … the ‘Irvine 11’ will stand alongside other civil rights heroes.

“We were remaining optimistic and hopeful that justice would prevail … I hope that this case goes forward and that free speech prevails at the end of the day. At this point, we’re all losing — we’re all losing our rights.”

Loughner pleads not guilty in Tucson shooting


A smiling Jared Loughner pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges related to the Jan. 8 shooting in Arizona, the ” title=”NYTimes.com” target=”_blank”>NYTimes.com.

Indian court finds Mumbai gunman guilty


An Indian court found a Pakistani man guilty of murder and other offenses for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Ajmal Kasab also was found guilty Monday of conspiracy and waging war against India in a series of attacks that left 166 people dead, including six at the Mumbai Chabad house, which was targeted along with luxury hotels, a train station and a popular cafe. Kasab was the only surviving gunman among 10.

Kasab, who originally admitted to his role as part of a Pakistani Islamist organization before retracting his confession, faces a death sentence or life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

A temporary Chabad house is in operation in Mumbai during the reconstruction of the house that was destroyed in the November 2008 attack.

Holocaust-Denying Bishop Found Guilty In German Court


From HuffingtonPost.com:

The schismatic bishop who deeply angered Jews and embarrassed the Vatican by publicly denying the Holocaust was ordered to pay a $13,500 fine for violating a German law that makes it a crime to deny the Holocaust.

Judge Karin Frahm in the Bavarian city of Regensburg issued her ruling on Friday (April 16), according to The Associated Press, after relying on written statements when Bishop Richard Williamson declined to appear in court.

Williamson, a member of the breakaway Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), had told Swedish television in a 2008 interview that “no more than 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps … not one of them by gassing in a gas chamber.”

Read the full story at HuffingtonPost.com.

American to plead guilty to Mumbai charges


An American citizen of Pakistani origin reportedly has agreed to plead guilty to charges against him in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

David Headly, 49, is scheduled to appear Thursday in a federal court in Chicago to change his plea from not guilty, according to news reports, citing a federal court notice.

Headly was arrested last October in Chicago as he attempted to flee to Pakistan.

Charges against Headly include the murder of Americans, providing material support to a terror group, and conspiracy to murder and maim people in foreign countries.

The November 2008 attacks on several locations in Mumbai, India, killed 166 people, including six at the Mumbai Chabad House.

Indian security sources believe Headley cased the Chabad center, known as the Nariman House, for the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is believed to be responsible for the attacks.

Indian investigators found that Headley visited all 10 Mumbai locations that were attacked.

A Guilty Plea in AIPAC Case


A Pentagon analyst at the center of an investigation that has rocked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will plead guilty.

Edward Adams, a spokesman for the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., announced last week that Lawrence Franklin had scheduled a guilty plea for this week. Edwards said he did not know what charge Franklin would plead to, or if the plea is part of a larger deal.

Lawyers for Franklin in the past have suggested that he would plead guilty to charges that he moved classified documents out of a designated area to his home in West Virginia, the least of the charges against Franklin. He also is charged with leaking classified information to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two AIPAC staffers who have since been fired, and to Israeli diplomats. Franklin’s lawyers said in August that they would seek to try Franklin separately from Rosen and Weissman, who also have been indicted.

 

World Briefs


Settlement in Reburying Case

The largest funeral company in the United States settled a class-action lawsuit brought by Jewish families in Florida. Service Corporation International agreed to pay $100 million to Jewish families in Broward County in a lawsuit that included accusations that Jewish bodies were dug up and reburied. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge. A similar lawsuit in Palm Beach County still is pending.

‘Iran 11’ Go Public

The families of 11 missing Iranian Jews are publicizing their plight and asking the United Nations to help. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Iranian American Jewish Federation submitted a letter Tuesday to the U.N. secretary-general, asking him to help discover the missing Jews’ condition and whereabouts. The Jews went missing up to nine years ago after trying illegally to leave Iran, which has strict emigration laws for Jews. Until now, their families preferred backroom dealings. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said they decided to go public because “there’s been no movement all these years, so they really have nothing to lose.”

Annan Blasts Fence

Kofi Annan says Israel’s security barrier could damage prospects for peace. The U.N. Secretary General was reporting on Israel’s compliance with a General Assembly resolution that demanded the barrier be dismantled. Routing the wall through parts of the West Bank, instead of alongside it, “could damage the longer-term prospects for peace,” Annan said in the report released last Friday.

Jewish Extremists Guilty

Two Israeli Jewish extremists pleaded guilty to weapons-related crimes as part of a plea bargain. Yitzhak Pass, whose infant daughter was killed in 2001 by Palestinian terrorists, and his brother-in- aw, Matityahu Shvu, will not face charges that they planned to use explosives found in their car for a terrorist attack. Israeli officials believe the two were part of a cell of Jewish terrorists based in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. The plea bargain was announced Tuesday.

To Fund Religious Studies or Not?

The Supreme Court is hearing a case on state-funded scholarships to students of religion. Joshua Davey was denied a Washington state scholarship because he was to undertake pastoral studies at Northwest College. Orthodox Jewish groups have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that the study of religious texts is an essential component of the free exercise of religion. The American Jewish Congress has filed an opposing brief.

Bangladeshi Editor Arrested

A press freedom group is protesting the arrest of a Bangladeshi editor on charges of spying for Israel. Reporters Without Borders said it is dismayed at the arrest of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudury as he was set to leave the South Asian Muslim country for Israel on Nov. 29. Choudury was to deliver a speech in Tel Aviv to a writers group on the role of the media in Muslim-Jewish dialogue. Bangladesh and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.

More Trouble for Yeshiva

Australian police are investigating a fire that destroyed part of an apartment complex formerly owned by a yeshiva. The fire broke out last Friday after mattresses were placed in a pile and then set afire, a spokesman for the Sydney Yeshiva said. No one was injured. The yeshiva recently sold the complex in order to repay debts the yeshiva owed to Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, brother-in-law of yeshiva head Rabbi Pinchus Feldman. Chabad-Lubavitch representatives recently purchased the yeshiva.

An Online Guide to Restitution

The Claims Conference published an online guide to Holocaust restitution programs. The group’s Compensation and Restitution at a Glance Chart now is available at the Claims Conference’s homepage at www.claimscon.org. The guide provides a country-by-country breakdown of current compensation and restitution programs and appropriate contact information. Information on art and insurance policies relating to the Holocaust era and the Swiss banks settlement also is included.

“This online publication will aid Holocaust survivors and people working in agencies that assist survivors in navigating the sometimes complex process of applying for compensation and restitution,” said Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.

Bush, Let My People In!

U.S. Jewish groups are pressing President Bush to allow all 70,000 refugees slots to be filled this year.

The 22 groups from across the political spectrum said that fewer than 30,000 of the 70,000 slots have been filled during the past two years.

“Our concern over the current status of the U.S. Refugee Program is based on our core values as Americans and Jews,” said a letter from the groups dated Monday.

Arrest in Turkey Shul Bombings

Turkey arrested a man believed to have given the orders in one of the Turkish synagogue bombings. The suspect, whose name was not released, is believed to be behind the attack on the Beth Israel synagogue, one of two deadly attacks on Nov. 15. He was charged Saturday with treason, which is punishable by life in prison.

London Synagogue Attacked

A London synagogue had its windows broken in what police are describing as a hate crime. The Orthodox Edgware Synagogue was attacked with bricks after congregants left at the end of Shabbat on Saturday. It is the second time this year the shul has been targeted.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.