Jerusalem (Aug. 7)
Joseph Mizrachi Urphali, the only Jew still under the death sentence as a result of the events growing out of last Summer’s riots, had his sentence commuted to ten years in prison today. The reprieve granted to Urphali is the second to a Jew since the riots, Simche Hinkis, a Jewish constable, having had his death sentence set aside and a fifteen year prison term substituted.
The reprieve for Urphali ends a long fight to obtain for him either a pardon or a reprieve. When the government reprieved all but three of the condemned Arabs last June no action was taken in Urphali’s case as his appeal was pending before the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council on July 28 declined to hear Urphali’s appeal on the ground that the Court of Appeal in Palestine, which dealt with the case, had exercised its discretion and the Privy Council does not sit as a court of crimnal appeal.
While the Arab papers demanded the execution of Urphali as the three Arabs were executed for their part in the riots, counsel for Urphali, working on the basis of a recommendation for clemency made by the court which condemned Urphali, drafted a petition to the High Commission for a pardon or at least a commutation of the sentence to a term of imprisonment.
Urphali was twice tried by the lower courts in Palestine and twice sentenced to death. The first Jew sentenced to death in Palestine as a result of the riots, he was found guilty of killing two Arabs on the day of the riots when the Arabs attempted to invade Tel Aviv from a point just outside of Urphali’s house in Jaffa. After his first trial, Urphali’s counsel, Dr. Mordecai Eliash, took an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard January 25. The decision of the Court of Appeal with Judge A. O. C. K. Corries acting as president, and Judges F. H. Baker and R. Copeland sitting, set aside the death sentence and ordered a new trial.
The Court discredited the four Arab witnesses, saying it was impossible to reconcile their evidence with the medical evidence and holding that the lower court had not been justified in accepting the Arabs’ story. The Court declared that the prosecution had not made out a satisfactory case. At his second trial Urphali was again found guilty and resentenced.
Urphali is a middle-aged and prosperous merchant of Jaffa who was caught in the chain of events that began with the first days of last Summer’s riots.