The Iranian authorities were responsible for the deaths of most members of a group of Iranian Jews who disappeared in 1994 as they sought to escape the country for Israel, mistaking them for members of a rebel group, Channel 10 reported Saturday.
The report further revealed that the escape attempt was orchestrated by Israel and overseen by officials from the Mossad and the Jewish Agency.
Meanwhile, pictures emerged apparently showing the victims, with their names and dates of disappearance. The table of pictures and details was published several months ago on the website ketab.com, and relates to 12 missing Iranian Jews.
According to Channel 10, the eight Iranian Jews who sought to escape in 1994 were instructed by Israeli officials to travel to the Zahedan region in eastern Iran, where they would meet with a contact from a local tribe who would smuggle them over the Pakistani border. From there they would be flown to Turkey or Cyprus and then Israel.
However, the plan went fatally awry: The eight traveled in three separate groups. Two of these groups were killed by Iranian security forces who believed them to be members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, a group of Iranian dissidents that opposes the clerical regime and has conducted militant operations against its forces.
The third group was captured by Iranian officials and then released, Channel 10 reported, only to be killed by members of a local tribe for unspecified reasons.
The eight killed Jews were Babak Shaoulian-Tehrani, 17 at the time of his disappearance, of Tehran; Shahin Nik-Khoo, 19, of Tehran; Salari Behzad, 21, of Kermanshah; Farad Ezati-Mahmoudi, 22, of Kermanshah; Homayoun Bala-Zade, 41, of Shiraz; Omid Solouki, 17, of Tehran; Rubin Kohan-Mosleh, 17, of Shiraz; and Ibrahim Kohan-Mosleh, 16, of Shiraz.
A statement released Thursday night by the Prime Minister’s Office said the eight Jews “were caught during the escape and murdered.” The statement did not detail when or where the eight were killed or by whom, however. The PMO said the Mossad had relied on a “reliable source” for the information.
The official report on the case was sent to former Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar, who ruled that the information was reliable — a ruling that is expected to allow the wives of the victims to remarry.
Under Jewish law, women whose husbands have disappeared are barred from marrying again until their husbands’ death is confirmed.
Members of the eight men’s families received the official word from the state about their loved ones’ deaths on Thursday, 20 years after they vanished. David Meidan, a veteran Mossad official overseeing the investigation, met with them to inform them of the findings.
Meidan was also involved in the negotiations for the release of soldier Gilad Shalit.
Some family members expressed anger at the state for not revealing its role in their disappearance, and for withholding information that could have released the victims’ wives from their bonds of marriage.
Yoel Ram, the son of one of the victims, told Channel 10 that only intense pressure from the families had led state officials to release the information on their deaths. “They had information three months ago and they didn’t say,” he stated.
Yehuda Kassif, an activist who campaigned on behalf of the families, accused the state of planning and directing the men’s escape attempt and then “shirking responsibility the moment something went wrong.”
State officials told Channel 10 the information was given to the families as soon as it was possible to do so. Some delay had been caused, they admitted, due to fears of hampering efforts to obtain information on three additional missing persons, members of a fourth group that attempted to escape in 1997.
These were Syrous Ghahremani, 42 or 32 at time of disappearance, of Kermanshah; Ibrahim Ghahremani, 61, of Kermanshah; and Nourollah Rabi-Zade, 52, of Shiraz. Their fate remains unknown.