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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jewish group leader complains about Rubashkin treatment

A leader of one of the country’s most prominent Jewish groups complained to the U.S. attorney general Wednesday about the treatment of a former Iowa meatpacking executive.

The complaint centers on the government’s decision to deny bail to Sholom Rubashkin, the longtime leader of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Ia.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote a letter about the case Wednesday to Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Foxman complained about prosecutors’ successful argument that Rubashkin should be denied bail, partly because as a Jew, he is eligible for Israeli citizenship.

Prosecutors have noted that Israel has a “Law of Return,” which allows Jews from around the world to settle there.

Rubashkin is facing federal charges of bank fraud and conspiring to hire undocumented workers at the plant. Foxman stressed that his organization has no position on the facts of that case. But he asked Mukasey to “set clear policy” for federal prosecutors, saying that they should not use the Law of Return as a reason to deny bail to Jews.

“The Law of Return is not ‘de facto’ citizenship for Jews in Israel, and it should not be used to hold Jewish defendants who do not exhibit some credible threat of flight to Israel,” Foxman wrote. “It is unconstitutional to argue in this – and in future cases – that Jewish defendants are to be held to a different standard of detention than non-Jewish defendants.”

Foxman said people of Irish or Indian ancestry also could seek citizenship in their families’ homelands. He said that fact should not be held against them, either.

Justice Department spokespeople were not available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Federal prosecutors have denied that their argument is unconstitutional.

They say they have legitimate reasons to fear Rubashkin could flee to Israel if released from jail. They note that two other former Agriprocessors managers, one of whom is Jewish, are believed to have done so.

Federal Magistrate Jon Scoles agreed with prosecutors and has ordered Rubashkin jailed until his trial, which is set for September. [Mark Godsey]

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