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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 17, 1998, Vol. 6, No 126

Israeli Jailed for Iran Poison Gas Sale

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

An Israeli court has sentenced an Israeli businessman to 16 years in jail for selling chemical weapons and related technology to Iran.

The three-judge Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Nachum Manbar for what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a "terrible" crime for which Manbar deserved to "pay a heavy price." That comment got the prime minister in some trouble.

The court convicted Manbar last month of aiding an enemy making war on Israel and providing information intended to damage Israel's security. The prosecution says he sold Iran $18 million worth of mustard gas and nerve gas, and technology for the construction of a factory to build missile warheads which could carry them. Prosecutor Dvorah Chen called it the most serious crime in Israeli history, and asked for a sentence of life in prison.

In the end, the court chose 16 years, saying it could not ignore the fact that what Manbar did was not so unusual at the time he did it, in the early 1990s. Still, they describe Manbar as being "uncontrollably greedy."

Netanyahu welcomed the sentence, saying that Manbar provided the material of death to an Iranian government that is committed to Israel's destruction.

At the sentencing hearing, the judges criticized the prime minister and other officials for making earlier public statements about the seriousness of Manbar's crime and what kind of sentence he deserved. The judges said even if such comments were not made with the intention of influencing the court, they should not have been made.

The panel wrote: "How did the accused...plunge to the lowest depths by selling raw materials for chemical warfare and the knowledge and equipment for the manufacture of nerve gas to a clear enemy state such as Iran?"

This week, in news reports and public statements by politicians and attorneys involved in the case, the senior judge and the prime minister's spokesman were both accused of having a sexual affair with one of the defense attorneys. And Netanyahu was accused of trying to improperly influence the judges to impose a stiff sentence. All the allegations were vehemently denied by all the people who were accused.

In addition, there were allegations that former Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin tried to suppress the Manbar investigation. Those charges were also denied, and the prosecutor said it was Rabin who ordered the initial investigation but there was not enough evidence at the time to bring Manbar to justice.

Manbar's family says he is being made a scapegoat and says the government should also prosecute other Israelis who did business with Iran in the early '90s. His attorneys say they will appeal both the conviction and the sentence.

Heated Debate over Posthumous Circumcision

By IsraelWire

Labor Knesset member Ophir Pines threatened to involve the police if the practice of performing a posthumous circumcision by members of the rabbinate and/or burial society is not stopped. Pines was referring to a limited number of cases in which a person, whose Judaism was questionable, was circumcised following his death, prior to burial.

According to officials in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, such incidents are few in number, and the rabbis involved have already been warned to stop the practice in the future.

"Only I am responsible for my sex organs. Me and no one else," stated MK Yossi Sarid of the left-wing Meretz Party. Sarid added that the procedure was the ultimate in religious coercion, since the dead person is unable to defend himself. He added that since a person did not choose to be circumcised during his life, it is safe to assume he would not want it done when he was dead.

Pines called upon the Religious Affairs Ministry to not renew the license of any burial society that continues the practice, which he described as "sick and perverted."

MK Yitzchak Vaknin, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party asked the MKs why they found this objectionable, but did not have any problem when the organs of the deceased are taken out in an autopsy [which is prohibited according to Jewish law]. Vaknin accused them of being against anything that was symbolic of Judaism.

The discussion was concluded with the decision that circumcision would not be done on the deceased, except if it was expressly stated in a last will or if the family requested it. The IDF spokesman added that there is no order instructing the IDF Chief Rabbinate to circumcise any dead soldier.

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