by Max Sawdayee


Tuesday January 14, 1969

We understand from several reliable sources that three Jews have already been sentenced to death, including the kitchen utensils merchant from Basra, the so-called leader of the spy network.  Another hard blow to us.  But we don’t know what is really happening.  The government and the ‘revolution Court’ say nothing about verdicts already passed, and the tape-recorded trials broadcast at night do not mention anything of the sort.

Nobody can tell what our rulers are trying to do.  It appears that they intentional mean to keep things in the dark, at least for the time being.

The tape-recorded trials of tonight deal with three Jews, one Muslim and one Christian.  This time too, the Jewish defendants deny the charges against them.  They deny ever having met the Muslim and the Christian defendants in Basra, or cooperated with them in sending coded wireless messages to Israel or to Iran from Sabteyyeen (Sabbatical) Church in Basra.  The Christian defendant also denies ever having cooperated with those Jews or the Muslim co-defendant in anything of the sort.  On the other had, the Muslim (the one we saw in the TV interview on December 14 last), Sadek Al-Hawi, admits all the charges against him, confirming that he knew perfectly well the other four and all the others accused as accomplices in the spy network.  He also states that he met those four men many times in their homes, collaborated with them in sending coded messages to a foreign country, and helped in transporting the wireless set from place to place as emergencies required.  That is suspicious indeed!  It becomes more suspicious when the Court Attorney, confident and sure of himself by these admissions from the Muslim defendant, rushes to request the death penalty for the three Jews and the Christian, while requesting life imprisonment for the Muslim for his cooperation with the Court!  As to the Counsel for the Defence, he clumsily remarks that he does not know what to say to the Court, as he finds ‘all of the five guilty’!

So far the three Jewish defendants have spoken freely and known how to dismiss all charges as we hear them on the tape recording.  But what we hear from other sources is completely different.  Rumours of savage tortures and a death case are mushrooming all the time, and many well-informed people, mostly Jews and Christians, are confirming them.

I’m listening to lots of news these days, and reading many newspapers and magazines, local and foreign, trying to understand what’s happening in this unfortunate country.   However, I seem to be groping in the dark.  The government does not like anyone to be informed.  This is the nature of every reign of terror.

Monday January 20, 1969

Well-informed sources say that the number of Jews sentenced to death has risen to six.  It is said that one Muslim and one Christian have also received death sentences.

World opinion is rebellious against the wave of terror engulfing this miserable country.  U.N. secretary U Thant endeavours to stop the awful trials framed by our rulers.  We know, too, that Israel’s Premier Levi Eshkol and Foreign Minister Abba Eban are quietly doing their utmost to halt this wave before it is too late.  U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, who terminates his duties today, has tried his best to stop it as well.

Does it help?  No.  The despots at the top are determined to record a black chapter in this country’s history.  Almost every night now, from eight-thirty or nine to eleven or twelve, new tape-recorded trials are broadcast from our radio station.  And something strange and awful is happening lately.  The defendants begin to confess their ‘guilt’.  Some of them admitting having actually been to Abadan, Iran, for sabotage training; others admitted having blown up the Babylon Road Bridge in Basra; while others admitted sending coded messages to Israel, Iran and even to Holland; and the rest admitted receiving money from the spy ring leader and his go-betweens.

No one doubts that these confessions must have been extracted under duress, under unutterable tortures and most extreme threats.  No-one doubts that all the charges hurled at the defendants are all fake, all invented for the purpose of intimidating the unhappy people of this country.  One can only imagine what unspeakably savage treatment must have been suffered by each of these defendants in order to make him change his mind, confess to false accusations that are liable to bring him to abysmal self-indictment, and finally to ignominious death.

We are all very keen to know what’s behind this reverse direction.  Baghdad radio seems to provide some clue to this purpose.  Yesterday it announced that the Jew who had brought the wireless set from abroad, and who had been in prison, had fled from prison and maybe from Iraq too.  The radio, describing his characteristic features, warned the public to be vigilant and notify the nearest police station in case they might know his whereabouts.  But we know since several days ago that the man in question had already been gunned down in prison after ruthless tortures.  Could that mean that he was made an example deliberately to frighten other defendants to confession, and now they claim that he fled?

The radio also stated that the government had known about the wireless set in Basra and the spot where it was installed, through the collaboration of a foreign ship anchored at the Basra Port.  In fact, we know for some time now that Soviet warships are anchored at the Basra Port, and that Iran has been employing heavy pressure upon the Iraqi government to make them leave the soonest possible.   Did those warships spread rumours about a ‘clandestine wireless set’ in order to have our government occupied with a headache so that the ships might stay at the Port for a longer while?  This is very typical of Soviet policy, which has its own schemes and intrigues for the Persian Gulf area, and it’s most likely that the Soviets are playing a game so as to show their ‘sincere friendship’ to Iraq’s rulers.

Now that the defendants, especially the Jews, nine of them by now, have confessed and admitted in the last two days every guilt they were ordered to, certain sections of the Iraqi people are getting more excited every day.  They want ‘to see the blood of those traitors flowing very soon!’

The day those defendant Jews started to admit their ‘guilt’, the fate of the Jew in Iraq was sealed.  Now he stands as the master spy in this country.  He sends highly important political and military messages to Israel, Iran or elsewhere.  He maintains contact with the American C.I.A. through Iran and Holland.  And so on.

Wednesday January 22, 1969

Today, while driving with my wife and children in our small Volkswagen on the river front street about ten in the morning, I see a big crowd gathering round a huge burned car.  It draws my attention.  I stop my car a little far from the crowd and walk nearer to see what the matter is.  The burned car is a big white Chevrolet completely destroyed, and many parts of it are scattered all around.  For a while I think the car must have got burned by accident, but when I inquire from a man standing near by and holding a small piece of burned metal in his hand, he stares me in the face a few seconds, shouting, ‘Don’t you know what has happened here?!’   When I reply in the negative, he says, nervously and loudly, ‘it’s an act of sabotage committed by Jewish agents and fifth columnists!’  He goes on to explain that three more cars have been blown up in the vicinity, all in the very early hours of the morning.  Then he asks for my identity papers.  I say that they are in my and that I’m going to bring them.  I hurry up to my car and speedily disappear with my family. 

At home I learn from the morning papers that ‘Jewish agents and fifth columnists have started acts of sabotage throughout the country by blowing up four cars in the south of Baghdad’.  I ask myself how the papers, which were printed last night, had already known what was going to happen in the early hours of the morning and put it in such big headlines?  And how could they foretell that these acts would be committed by Jewish agents?

The burning of four cars on this very day is definitely no coincidence.  Anyone with a normal head can guess that it was planned and executed by government agents for some yet unknown purposes.

The Baghdad radio station plays on a new theme today.  It continually asks for someone with the initials of ‘N.B.L’ and another by the initials of ‘S.A.D’, to come to the radio station and convey the information at their disposal in connection with spies and fifth columnists, whom it claims they know.

Messages like these broadcasting over the radio add to the disturbing situation.   In the evening and just before the tape-recorded trials, it becomes even more insupportable to hear the radio station transmitting a warning, for instance, to someone by the name of ‘T.L.S.’, instructing him to surrender to the station at once so that he may get off with a lighter punishment.

The trials broadcast tonight raise the Jewish defendants to eleven.  Almost all of them admit to the charges hurled at them by the Court Attorney and the Court President.  We hear fantastic and incredible confessions by the defendants, such as their relations and contacts with the American C.I.A. in Iran and Holland, plotting further acts of sabotage within our country.  A Muslim defendant, a merchant from Basra, tonight admits having contacted the Kurds in the north and politicians in Lebanon for the purpose of delivering to them significant military information regarding the Iraqi army.  As usual, the Counsel for the Defence says a little more than believing that all these accusations are correct, that the defendants’ guilt is beyond suspicion, and that he would leave it to the Court to pass a verdict as it deems suitable!

Many Jews are visiting the Chief Rabbi lately to obtain information as to what is going on and why he doesn’t intervene with the government to do something.  Mothers, fathers and wives of the defendants are pressing on him to act fast.  They have been told by well-informed sources that their sons and husbands will be executed very shortly if nobody influential enough intervenes on their behalf and stops the massacre.  The Chief Rabbi claims that he knows nothing about it and says that he cannot do anything.  His attitude in these crucial circumstances is indeed puzzling.  It is true that he is deeply concerned about his son, who is also imprisoned in an unknown place and so far as not been brought to trial, but ought not to stop him from taking vigorous action at least to help those victims a little in their helpless ordeal.

We understand that the Chief Rabbi has been ordered by a top figure to keep quiet. 

Requests are being made to the Jewish Community Council to do something, but the Council members dare not see any high government official in the meantime.

Saturday January 25, 1969

Although we hear of no verdict confirmed officially so far, against any of the defendants, whether a Jew, a Muslim or a Christian, many Iraqis seem to know already that a number of death sentences has been passed by the ‘Revolution Court’, the majority of them received by Jews.   What is most awful is that a high percentage of the people have been brainwashed enough to believe all they hear every night over the radio, and many of them are angry that the government didn’t known about such a ‘dangerous spy network’ till recently.

One must admit, however, that still a number of cultured, educated, wise Iraqis are disgusted by the loathsome trials framed by our rulers.  They are sufficiently far-sighted of course, to view with apprehension what is liable to follow such trials, and the repulsive conditions that will associate their probably consequences.  Unfortunately the number of these open-eyed Iraqis does not constitute a high percentage.  Besides, they certainly cannot raise their voices nor intervene.  The Ba’athists have never listened to anyone inside the country or abroad.  Their extremism is completely deaf and utterly blind.

Yesterday morning and afternoon some fifteen Jewish women demonstrated in front of the Swiss Embassy here, with a petition requesting intervention and help against the tide of despotism sweeping the country. 

A woman, whose son is one of the defendants, told a friend of mine yesterday that nine Jews had already been sentenced to death, including her son, and that they may be executed any moment.  My friend also told me that the Chief Rabbi had been notified to assign a religious man to be detailed to the prison any day soon in order to say a prayer for those that would be taken out for execution.

Today I learn from most reliable sources that the four acts of sabotage committed last Wednesday morning, the 22nd, viz. the burning of four cars in the south of Baghdad, had been masterminded by the Defence Minister Hardan Al-Tekriti and executed by his own me, with the full knowledge of the government.  The purpose was obviously to create an atmosphere of panic throughout the country in order to pave the way for an facilitate the persecution of further, more outrageous crimes by our Ba’athist rulers.

Monday January 27, 1969 02:00 hrs.

Our radio station broadcasts the last session of the trials held by the ‘Revolution Court’. The broadcast ended half an hour ago.

The President of the Court, in a very solemn but harsh voice, passed the verdicts:  Nine Jews were sentenced to death by hanging.  Two others were acquitted on a bail of one thousand dinars each (including the brother of the so-called leader of the spy network).  Two others, a father and a son, were sentenced to one year in prison. Another was sentenced to six months imprisonment.  Moreover, four Muslims and one Christian were sentenced to death by hanging; and one Muslim, the one who was supposed to have cooperated with the Court, was given life imprisonment.

Only two of the Jewish defendants sentenced to death, viz. the so-called spy network leader Nadji Zilkha, and the so-called agent in Baghdad, Charles Horesh, had the courage to vehemently deny the charges against them to the very end, however severe the tortures they had suffered.  Despite the fact for four long months the most barbarous methods of torture were employed with them (as with all the rest), they kept denying the false accusations of the Court.  They undoubtedly realised from the very outset that whatever they would say they were destined to pay with their lives. The others, who admitted everything, must have collapsed under the heinous tortures to which they were subjected day and night.  It is also probably that they had been promised lighter punishments if they confessed, and that’s why they acceded to indicting themselves.

Mass death sentences such as these characterise totalitarian regimes, like that of Nazi Germany.  Here is another example in miniature.

Maybe something will happen to halt the enforcement of the death penalty?  May a country, a group of countries, or a personality of extraordinary prestige and influence such as the Pope, will intervene to stop the hangings before they take place?  Maybe world opinion will be shocked so badly as to act at once and do something in the name of humanity?  Well, one mustn’t lose hope.  No.  Especially at this dark hour.  Many factors can emerge from anywhere – from heaven, from earth, just anywhere – to stop the bloody massacre.

All our hearts and thoughts are with those brave men, now chained with iron and steel, lying in agony within their tiny dark cells, lonely, shaken to the marrow of their bones, waiting for the hangman to wring life out of them.

I pray for those victims to find courage at the most trying moments of their lives, to inhale a dose of hope out of hopelessness, Muslims, Christians and Jews.  They are all innocent, there’s no doubt about it.  They are all victims of an ugly political intrigue, plotted against them by the forces of evil.  They are good sons of this country, whose present rulers are desecrating its soil with bestial crimes.