Israeli held in China without trial for 3 months

Israeli business man kept in a Chinese jail without being brought before a judge for over 3 months.

mansharove 224 88  (photo credit: Courtesy)
mansharove 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An Israeli businessman has been kept in a Chinese jail for more than three-and-a-half months without being brought before a judge, for allegedly smuggling hundreds of cellphones into the communist country, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Dato Mansharove, 32, from Or Yehuda was arrested in December, his China-based lawyer David Buxbaum said. Buxbaum said his client had done nothing wrong, except for not declaring the secondhand phones when he brought them into the country, because Mansharove had not been aware of the regulation. The oversight, he said, should warrant a warning or at most a modest administrative fine. "The behavior of the Shenzhen customs office is not in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations," Buxbaum said in a telephone interview from China. "They are detaining Mr. Dato [Mansharove] for absolutely no reason while they've done nothing except prolong the case." A Chinese Embassy spokeswoman in Tel Aviv contacted Friday and again on Sunday said she had not verified the details of the case and that the incident appeared to be a legal matter outside the embassy's purview. "We were not informed about this case you mentioned," she said. According to his attorney, Mansharove was doing his Israeli friends a favor last September when he brought about 450 used cellphones, which had been purchased recently in a secondhand market in the southern city of Shenzhen, back into the country for repairs. The businessman was stopped at the border, 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, Buxbaum said. He was also detained at the time for two days. While there were some indications that customs officials wanted him to pay a fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,140), Mansharove never received a straight answer or a written notice of any administrative sanctions or fines due, Buxbaum said. Shenzhen customs detained him again around December 23, and he has been incarcerated since. Mansharove was formally arrested in January, the lawyer said. Customs officials have said the phones' customs duty value exceeds 53,000 yuan ($7,570), which could make the case a criminal one. But Buxbaum argues that there are no such fees on refurbished goods that come from China and are brought in for repairs. Criminal proceedings have been initiated, and if Mansharove is convicted - which his attorneys consider very unlikely - he could receive additional jail time. Although previous requests have been rejected, his lawyers expect to hear this week whether their client will be released on bail or on their guarantee. Mansharove's detention was recently extended for 30 days so customs officials could further investigate the phones at the prosecutor's request, Buxbaum said. In Israel, Mansharove's family defended his innocence and expressed disbelief over the detention. "Almost four months and no charges have been pressed?" his sister Sharona Biniashvili said. "They won't release him on bail?... When will this come to an end?" The Israeli consul in Beijing visited Mansharove in jail last month, and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai discussed the case with a Shenzhen official during his visit to China in January, Biniashvili said. But family members said the government had not done enough to secure his release. "The State of Israel doesn't care about a citizen who is imprisoned in a foreign country," his brother Zohar Mansharove said. "That's the bottom line." The Foreign Ministry said Sunday that Mansharove - like all Israeli prisoners in foreign countries - was being offered all consular services that they provided to prisoners. "The Foreign Ministry will not interfere with internal cases going on in China or any other place in the world," a spokesman said. "The only activity we [conduct] is consular activity. We will be in contact with any prisoner around the world... and we help him get the due process he should get." "We don't know of any claim of discrimination because [Mansharove] is an Israeli or a Jew, and as far as we know, he's in a good mental and physical state," the spokesman said. His family and attorney argue, however, that his nearly four-month detention in a Chinese jail cell is indeed taking a physical and psychological toll. Hundreds of Israelis are imprisoned in foreign countries, the government spokesman said. Mansharove is currently the only Israeli prisoner in China.