JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
The trial of Shalom Shtarkes on charges of kidnapping his nephew, Yossele Schumacher, opened here today with the boy presented as the prosecution’s key witness.
Yoselle, whose disappearance for nearly two years stirred a search for him on three continents and sharpened the cleavage between Orthodox and anti-religious elements in Israel, appeared in Jerusalem district court minus the side curls he had grown during his hiding by extremist Orthodox groups. He also wore the typical sports jacket of an Israeli schoolboy.
The boy, who was finally found by United States Secret Service men in the home of a Brooklyn rabbi last spring, removed his spectacles to enable two prosecution witnesses to identify him as the lad who was brought to the Kommemiut village, an Agudat Israel settlement, two years ago.
The witnesses were brothers Zalman and Reuven Kutt who described how the boy was brought to their home for lodging. They testified they were en route to the synagogue for Mincha services when they were accosted by Yoselle’s escort who arranged for lodging. But neither would definitely identify the defendant as the boy’s escort at that time. Zalman Kutt pointed to both the defendant and to one of the court spectators as the person who might have been the escort. Reuven Kutt said he could not identify anyone in the courtroom as the possible escort.
The defense counsel tried unsuccessfully, before proceedings began, to obtain a postponement pending action on an application to stay the proceedings. He cited a petition of Yoselle’s mother to the Attorney General to halt the prosecution against the defendant, who is her brother.
The attorney also cited a latter from the boy’s grandfather, Nachman Shtarkes, to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, asking him to intervene to call off the trial, declaring that this should be done now that peace in the family had been restored. The grandfather spent more than a year in jail for refusal to aid the authorities in finding the missing boy.