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Deported Israeli couple call charges against them 'baseless'

February 08, 2012 18:16 IST

An Israeli couple, who have been asked to leave India in 15 days for allegedly indulging in suspicious activities, have described the charges against them as "baseless".

The couple -- Sheneor Zalman and Yaffa Shenoi -- had come to India on a multiple entry visa and were staying in Kerala in a rented accommodation. They were allegedly  preparing for a covert operation in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which six Jews were killed.

In an interview to the popular Hebrew news web portal Ynet, Yaffa Shenoi denied that that they were ever "arrested or interrogated" by Indian intelligence officials.

She said they were aware of the reports about them in Indian media.

"No one has spoken to us. A local source told us we are supposed to receive a letter from the authorities," she told the news portal. Her comments came as Kerala police said they had served a notice to the couple, issued by Ernakulam District Collector P I Sheikh Pareed, asking them to leave the country in 15 days.

On reports that the husband-wife duo aroused suspicions when people arrived at their home for late-night meetings, Yaffa said "it's pretty strange" and added that apparently they were "talking about Shabbat dinners with Israelis and local Jews."

Asked about the hefty rent of Rs 50,000 that they were paying for their accommodation in Kochi, the woman said it was a large house that was designated for Chabad activities. "It only costs $1,000 a month, not an insane amount."

Rabbi Sheneor Zalman told the Chabad website that he had "no idea how the Indian intelligence officials reached their conclusions".

"May be there has been a mistake because it is clear that that the allegations are baseless. I was invited here (to India) by the Jewish community and my sole duty is to work with it night and day," he said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that the Indian authorities were yet to relay any information regarding the two Israelis' arrest.

"Israel respects India's laws, and there is no reason to raise such suspicions against Israel," the ministry said in a statement.

Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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