JERUSALEM (Jun. 28)
Mathias Shmulevitz, alias Raphael Birnbaum, 24, was sentenced to death by a British military court here yesterday for illegal possession of arms and firing on a British policeman. He is the second Jew to be condemned by a military tribunal since Britain assumed the mandate over Palestine.
Upon hearing the verdict, Shmulevitz arose and sang Hatikvah, during which all the spectators and members of the court stood in silence. When being led from the court he approached reporters and called out: “Give my regards to the Yishuv.” The accused youth, who is a member of the outlawed Stern group, addressed the court for several hours, charging that Britain is following a “Jekyl and Hyde” Policy. In England, he said, she discloses here “Jekyl” aspect, while in Palestine she displays that of “Hyde.”
At the opening of the trial, Shmulevitz had requested that High Commissioner Sir Harold Machichael and Jewish Agency chairman David Ben-Gurion be called to testify. Through their testimony, he said, he would prove that Britain was not fulfilling its mandatory obligations in Palestine and also that the Jewish population was strongly opposed to the government policy. The court refused his request. The court also denied a request for the appearance of Police Superintendent Harrington, by whose testimony, Shmulevitz claimed, he would show that the police had instigated terroristic methods and “behavior akin to the Gestapo.”
The only other Palestine Jew to be sentenced to death by a British military court was Shlomo Ben Yosef, 25, who was hanged on June 29, 1938 for firing on an Arab bus. His trial and execution, which occurred at a time when Arab-Jewish tension was high, aroused nation-wide resentment. On several occasions Jewish demonstrators protesting the sentence clashed with police.