SARAFAND, Israel (Jul. 9)
The trial of 15 youths, including three girls, charged with membership in a terrorist underground group, opened before an Israeli military court here today. The trial began in an atmosphere reminiscent of the British trials of Sternists and Irgunists, with 10 of the 15 defendants challenging the jurisdiction of the military court and singing and shouting slogans in an open attempt to impede the proceedings.
The court is composed of Dr. Benjamin Halevi, chief justice of the Jerusalem District Court, who was given the temporary rank of a colonel for this trial, and two army officers. Early in the proceedings the court ruled that under the government emergency regulations it had full jurisdiction of the case and ordered that the trial continue. However, the noisy tactics of the defendants, who ranged in age from 15 to 30, prevented the reading of the indictment and the court adjourned until tomorrow when Attorney General Haim Cohen will present the government’s case.
The defendants, including three yeshiva students who kept their hats on throughout the day’s proceedings, rose one after the other to denounce the trial as a “show,” a “circus” and a “tragi-comedy” staged by the government to divert public attention from the present difficulties of the country.
10 YOUTHS REFUSE TO BE DEFENDED BY ATTORNEYS
The attorneys for ten of the defendants told the court that their clients refused to recognize the authority of the military court and would not permit the attorneys to defend them. The court granted the attorney’s request to be excused from their duties and appointed an army lawyer to act for the defendants.
The five defendants who agreed to permit attorneys to represent them included two of the girl defendants. They are 15-year-old Magori Cohen and 16-year-old Malka Paposhdo. The third young woman, 26-year-old Yaffa Dromit of Tel Aviv, refused to recognize the court’s jurisdiction. The three girls were escorted into court by women members of the Israel army.
Immediately after the attorneys explained that their clients refused to be defended, D. Herouti, one of the defendants, who is reportedly an important personage in the underground movement, demanded that the proceedings be transferred to a civilian court which “rules within a framework of laws fixed by the Israeli Government.”
A second defendant, Shimon Bachar, made a similar demand for a civilian trial, adding: “I owe nothing to the army. I am not under army jurisdiction. The Israel army has much more important tasks than helping this ‘show.’” Bachar also charged that the prosecution had extracted confessions from some of the defendants by “force,” subjecting them to ceaseless day and night questioning.
“I fought for the independence of this state against the British in this very camp and against the Arabs, but I did not fight for such a state, ” Bachar continued.”I shall not take part in the proceedings of this court and will not sit here unless held by iron chains. “
A third defendant, Zeev Badian, 30, commander of the Sternist troops during the siege of Jerusalem, told the tribunal that the defendants’ presence before a military court was proof that “there is no justice in Israel.” Miss Dromit declared that the Israel Supreme Court had ruled that civilians could not be tried by a military court. A number of the accused warned the court and the government that history would try and convict them for their role in the proceedings.