Menu JTA Search

Arab Lawyers’ Strike Impedes Trials

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The trial of the three Safed Arabs accused of the murder of Isaac Mamaan took another sensational turn on the morning of the third day when Chief Justice MacDonnel adjourned the trial until next Tuesday, following the withdrawal of the second Arab lawyer, Hanna As-four, after the Chief Justice had reproached his “bad advocacy.”

An unusual scene occurred during the cross-examination of the cook of the Hadassah hospital in Safed testifying that he heard Mamaan repeat to his wife five times that the accused had stabbed him. The cook, who is a simple Sephardic Jew, was at the patient’s bedside and helped undress him, asked the victim what had happened and was told that two of Raneim’s sons and Ahmed Jabour, besides Ahmed Tapisch, the fourth man who absconded, had attacked him. Trying to trip up the witness, As four asked whether the preceding witness had lied when he testified he heard the victim mention his assailants’ name only thrice and not five times before the witness fell asleep. The public prosecutor objected to the question, Justice MacDonnel sustaining the objection, saying: “It is bad advocacy, Hanna Effendi, thus to belabor a simple witness. You don’t help your case. It would be better to call the court’s attention to any discrepancies in the evidence.”

Asfour, who had been posturing as a stern cross-examiner, playing to the gallery after each question, sat down petulantly, murmuring like Maughanan yesterday that he is doing his best for his clients, whereupon Judge Litt, obviously flushing, said: “The difference between one witness hearing the statement three and another five times only goes to show the witnesses did not agree in advance to tell the same story.”

Asfour suddenly went pale, compressed his lips and said he was unable to go on with this case.

“You are suggesting very responsible action,” said the Chief Justice. “You are defending three men being tried for their lives. Your conduct will meet with the gravest criticism. Will you state why you wish to withdraw?”

“It is very difficult for me to proceed,” said Asfour.

“No other reason?” queried the Chief Justice.

“No,” said Asfour, “but if your honor wishes me to continue until another counsel is arranged-“

Without permitting him to finish the sentence, the Justice asked what had become of all the other lawyers, the power of attorney showing that Asfour was appearing in behalf of only one of the accused, whereas Maughanan yesterday claimed that all the lawyers were briefed by all three prisoners. This discrepancy angered the Chief Justice and the tense court heard the following pregnant remark: “We shall very seriously consider whether we should take action against you for professional misconduct.”

A fifteen-minute adjournment was declared, but the session was not resumed for an hour when MacDonnell announced adjournment until Tuesday to enable the defendants to secure other counsel since Sheik Kassab, supposedly another member of the defense counsel, declined to assume the defense.

Another trial of four Safed Arabs accused of the murder of an aged Jewish woman, is scheduled to begin at noon, but it is doubtful whether it will be held since Asfour’s action following Maughanan’s in throwing up his brief probably indicates the intention of all Arab lawyers to sabotage the criminal cases by a general lawyers’ strike, thus delaying if possible all trials arising out of the anti-Jewish attack.

During the morning’s proceedings, the Chief Justice, parrying Asfour’s remarks that this is not an ordinary murder trial, said, “There is nothing extraordinary in the case except the extraordinary conduct of yourself and Maughanan Effendi. The only unusual thing is the atmosphere surrounding these crimes, but this is no reason why calm and decorum are not observed.”

The Arab lawyers are all primarily politicians and are definitely endeavoring to turn the trials into political demonstrations in addition to sabotaging justice.

Replying to a question by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent. Asfour declared: “I can say nothing about the future. I am now a member of the body,” meaning, of course, the lawyers’ body now deliberating on a country-wide strike. One of the unfortunate effects of such a strike if called would be the letting loose of dozens of lawyers in the towns and villages possibly resulting in aggravated agitation.

As a sequel to this morning’s throwing up his brief by the second Arab lawyer in the Mamaan case, the court, re-assembling for the second trial before one o’clock to try four alleged murderers of Lula Farjoun, a Sephardic Jewess who was shot in Safed on August 29, was denuded of all Arab lawyers, the public, including Safed Jews, eagerly taking the vacant places.

The four accused, manacled, handcuffed and chained to one another, are murderous looking men. Two were tar bushed and two shawled. All stooped as if weighted by heavy chains.

The Chief Justice, not showing any signs of agitation owing to the incidents and the clear indication of a lawyers’ strike, told the interpreter to inform the prisoners, who did not know exactly who was their counsel, that the same lawyers were supposed to defend them as in the preceding case, but that they had apparently (Continued on Page 4)

withdrawn from both. Therefore, the prisoners must either nominate new counsel by Wednesday, when the hearing will be resumed, or the court will consider appointing counsel for them or proceeding without counsel.

Following this, the court was emptied, the Jewish spectators departing, the military and police guards were withdrawn and also the armoured car. The Arabs, deliberating on the next step to propose to the meeting of the Arab Executive on Saturday regarding today’s incidents, undoubtedly are causing anxiety to the authorities and the Jews.

NEXT STORY