Israeli detained by the Chinese released on bail

Dato Mansharove allegedly smuggled hundreds of cellphones into the communist country.

china 88 (photo credit: )
china 88
(photo credit: )
An Israeli businessman who was detained in a Chinese jail without a hearing for nearly four months for allegedly smuggling hundreds of cellphones into the communist country was released on bail Friday, the day before Pessah eve, his attorney and family said. Reversing a decision made a few days earlier, Shenzhen customs authorities agreed on Thursday to release Dato Mansharove, 32, on bail in the amount of $7,140. Mansharove, who is from Or Yehuda but has been living in Shanghai nearly three years, was set free Friday on the condition that he reports to customs officials on the 18th of each month and does not leave the country until the case is resolved. "There is a God!" his brother Zohar Mansharove said after hearing the news on Friday. "We prayed a lot for him. We are believers." His attorney, David Buxbaum, said he was "pleased as punch" that his client has been released. Mansharove spoke to family members by phone Friday and was planning to spend Shabbat and the first day of Pessah at the Guangzhou Jewish center of Chabad, he said. Buxbaum said his client did nothing wrong, except for not declaring the second-hand phones when he brought them into the country as he was unaware of the regulation. The oversight, he said, should warrant a warning or at most a modest fine. Mansharove's sister said he cried when he spoke to his sister by phone on Friday while headed for Guangzhou. "He was in a very difficult situation for four months," Sharona Biniashvili said. "He was in a state of uncertainty." A Chinese embassy spokeswoman in Tel Aviv, who said last week that she had not heard of the case, could not be reached Sunday evening. Two rabbis in China, Rabbi Shalom Greenberg of the Shanghai Jewish community and Rabbi Eliyahu Rozenberg of Guangzhou, immediately arranged for Mansharove's bail money, Buxbaum said. "It's a mitzva to take a Jew out of jail, particularly to observe Shabbat and Pessah," he said. Mansharove was doing his Israeli friends a favor when he brought in about 450 used cellphones, which had been recently purchased in a second-hand market in Shenzhen, back into mainland China from Hong Kong for repairs, Buxbaum said. He was stopped at the border in September and detained for two days, the cellphones and his passport were confiscated and he was asked to make arrangements to pay a fine within 90 days for failing to declare the phones. Although there were some indications that customs officials wanted him to pay 50,000 yuan, Mansharove never received a straight answer or written notice of administrative sanctions or fines due, Buxbaum said. He was detained again three months later, in late December, and incarcerated until his release on bail Friday. Buxbaum is still waiting to find out whether there will be a hearing to resolve his client's case. Criminal proceedings have been initiated though a conviction was unlikely, Buxbaum said. "We hope there won't be a hearing. We hope they will do it administratively, charge him a fine or a reprimand," he said. "A reprimand will be more than sufficient." Several people in China and Israel, including an Israeli businessman from Tel Aviv and Israeli government officials, made considerable efforts on Mansharove's behalf, Buxbaum said. In addition, media attention appears to have also had an impact, he said. The Jerusalem Post broke the story on April 14. The Post article "certainly brought pressure on the Chinese government to realize what lower officials were doing to this poor man," he said. He added: "They were holding him on this small, tiny matter... It's not typical in China. It's outrageous. Someone in China realized that and when they found out what was going on, they agreed to release him." Hundreds of Israelis are imprisoned in foreign countries, according to the Foreign Ministry. As of late Friday, no other Israelis were being held in China.