Jerusalem (Jun. 16)
Three Jewish youths were condemned to death today following their conviction by a British military court on charges of having participated in the Acre prison delivery May 4. The other two defendants received fifteen-year sentences.
When the colonel commanding the three-man court announced the sentences, the five youths rose and sang Hatikvah in strong, steady voices. They were joined by the audience in the court which included many of their relatives. During the singing. British soldier-attendants moved chairs and performed other tasks in an obvious attempt to disregard the defendants and the audience. All five prisoners wore khaki shirts and shorts and leg irons.
The condemned men–Meir Nakar, Abshalom Habib and Jacob Weiss–are between 20 and 23 years old. They refused to participate in the two-week trial and called on the United Nations inquiry committee to urge abolition of British military tribunals.
The other defendants are Amnon Mikhailoff and Nachman Zitterbaum, who insisted they did not take part in the assault on the medieval Acre jail. After they have served their prison terms, their release will depend on the decision of the High Commissioner, who may extend the terms if he chooses.
Commenting on the imposition of the death sentences, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency declared: “We regard it as very regrettable that the United Nations Committee on Palestine should be starting its work when the shadow of the gallows hangs over this country.”
Fifteen Jews and one Arab were killed during the Acre prison break. Of the 216 prisoners who escaped only 29 were Jews. The Irgun which engineered the delivery lost at least two dead and over 20 captured, of whom ten were injured. Thus far only one Jew has been recaptured, in Syria where he is still in jail.