Czechs knew Arabs killed JDC head in 67

NEW YORK — American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee director Charles Jordan was murdered in 1967 by Arab terrorists in Prague, according to evidence the Czechoslovakian government had at the time — although his death officially remains an unsolved mystery.

The information, which lends credence to a Czech defector's charges, was conveyed to the U.S. State Department in 1974, according to a diplomatic communiqué that was obtained last week after it was declassified at the request of the Jerusalem Post under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

"There was enough hard information in the [Czech Foreign Ministry's] files in 1967, and now, to support the conclusion that Jordan had been forceably [sic] picked up in Prague by members of a terrorist group from an Arab country and suffered death in their hands," said the 1974 aerogram from the charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Prague to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

"When asked whether the terrorist actions were known to or perpetrated with the support of any Arab embassy in Prague [the Czech contact] replied simply: 'It is hard to say,'" the aerogram continued.

The body of Jordan, 59, was found in Prague's Vltava River, near the Charles Bridge, on Aug. 20, 1967, four days after he disappeared.

The New York Times hailed him as the "father of refugees."

The Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism (UDV), which reopened the Jordan investigation five years ago, twice told the Post that it did not have enough evidence to indicate how Jordan died. In interviews in the last two years in Prague, the primary investigator said that many communist-era files had been destroyed, which made solving the case virtually impossible.

At the time of his death, Jordan was vacationing in Prague with his wife after a trip to Israel. There had been hints that he was a "Zionist spy," or that he was privy to secret information about the Six-Day War from talks he had attended in Jerusalem with then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol shortly before traveling to Central Europe.

UDV investigators have said that Jordan could have had a fatal accident or that he may have committed suicide.

Jordan's friends and colleagues, however, long insisted that he was murdered. They identified three possible culprits: the Czech secret police; the Soviet intelligence service, with the knowledge and complicity of the Czech secret police; or Arab agents, perhaps with Soviet assistance and with the knowledge of the Czech secret police.

The Czechs had dismissed an account by Josef Frolik, a Czech defector, who referred to Jordan's abductors as members of a Palestinian guerrilla group.

In a book several years after Jordan's death, Frolik wrote that a team of Czech agents trailing Jordan saw him being bundled into the "Egyptian Embassy's" diplomatic car, in what Frolik called the "first operation of Palestinian guerrillas behind the Iron Curtain."

According to the American chargé d'affaires' communiqué, a U.S. Embassy official asked an official of the Czech Foreign Ministry (MFA) in May 1974 about Jordan's disappearance and murder. In the document released to the Post, the name of the ministry official who was "directly involved in the MFA's handling of the Jordan case" has been excised.

However, the United States did not press the Czechs to solve the case. According to the chargé d'affaires, who was located by the Post last week, "U.S.-Czech relations were such that we could not count on the Czechs to be forthcoming, nor did we have any pressure points to encourage them to be more forthcoming."