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Praying for Justice

Local organizations unite to lead 'Iran 13' vigil on Sunday


by Michael Aushenker

April 13, 2000 | 8:00 pm

A vigil for the Iran 13 -- the Iranian-Jews who were arrested by the Iranian government on spying charges and are in the center of a controversial trial that began on Thursday in Tehran -- will be held at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance on Sun., April 16. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Simon Wiesenthal Center/Museum of Tolerance, the Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations and the Iranian American Jewish Federation are among the organizations sponsoring the event.

"The purpose is to pray for the safety of the prisoners," says Sam Kermanian, secretary general of the L.A.-based Iranian American Jewish Federation which assists Iranian Jewish refugees.

"As of this moment, we have not seen any tangible evidence that this will be a trial that in which all of the legal procedures of the rights of the accused will be honored," he says. "It's apparently not going to be an open trial. We have a lot of concern about the choice of lawyers present over there. The fact that nobody has been granted access to the prisoners or the files is a large concern to us."

The juxtaposition of the trial with Passover and "the notion of sitting down to celebrate our freedom while we have brothers or sisters in distress or harm's way" is not lost on Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Our instinct as Jews is to help our brothers and sisters."

According to Cooper, the vigil is a gesture that extends beyond the some 35,000 Iranian-American Jews living in L.A. county.

"This is also a wake-up call. The situation we're looking for here is basic justice. Hopefully, justice and some compassion will prevail."

Kermanian points out that the status of the case is extremely volatile and unpredictable, and could go in any direction without much notice. He adds that, unfortunately, this is the most we as a community can do at the present.

"There are, of course, tremendous amounts of activity on the diplomatic front internationally," said Kermanian. "But in terms of community action, it's limited to prayer vigils. We are hoping to raise awareness in the community of these people who have been under arrest almost 14 months with no official charges brought against them."

The vigil for the Iran 13 will be held this Sunday, April 16, at 11 a.m. in the courtyard of the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, 9760 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, call (310) 553-9036.

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