31 Jews Convicted of Possessing Arms Face Death Penalty; Prisoners Clash with Court
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31 Jews Convicted of Possessing Arms Face Death Penalty; Prisoners Clash with Court

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Thirty-one young Jews on trial here for illegal possession of arms were found guilty today by the British military tribunal which has been hearing their case since Monday. They will be sentenced tomorrow. All are liable to the death penalty.

When asked by the court whether they had anything to say, one of the defendants arose and said: “We are soldiers of the Irgun Zvai Leumi and we demand that we be given the status of prisoners of war.” Several of the youths then attempted to make speeches, but they were stopped by the court.

The court and the defendants clashed this morning when, after hearing statements by the accused for two hours, the president of the court attempted to silence them, citing various legal precedents. Chayim Luster, 28, the oldest of the defendants, rose and said that in a recent Irgun broadcast the president had been charged with stating to other British officers that it was a pity that the Palestine Jews had not suffered the same fate as those in Europe, “because then we would be free to leave the God-forsaken country and return to England.”

Luster was ordered to sit down and when he refused several guards rushed up to him. At this, all of the prisoners arose and began shouting. For a moment, it seemed as if the guards were going to shoot, but the president ordered them not to touch the Jews and Luster asked his comrades to resume their seats. Continuing his plea to be heard, Luster pointed out that even the defendants at Nuremberg are being allowed to make full statements. However, the court ruled against him.


As the 31 were leaving the courtroom to be transferred to the Bethlehem prison, Deborah Kalfuss, 21, the lone girl defendant, raised her hands above her head and shouted in Yiddish to the onlookers: “We will outlive them.”

If the court tomorrow should mete out death sentences to all or any of the young Jews, the Irgun, which is still holding three British officers kidnapped last week, may have to decide whether to carry out its threat to shoot the officers if the prisoners are executed.

Troops and police assisted by planes continued to search the Sharon area today in a fruitless hunt for the three abducted officers. The searchers concentrated on Rehovoth and neighboring villages and citrus groves.

This afternoon armed men raided a diamond polishing plant at Parades Katz and escaped with several thousand dollars worth of jewels and some cash.

It was announced today that settlers arrested last week at the colony of Beth Harava when they resisted a raid by troops hunting the kidnapped men have been sentenced to one month imprisonment.

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