BASLE, Switzerland (Jun. 13)
The Egyptian threat to destroy Israel was brought to the forefront last night by the presiding judge of the court in which the trial of Joseph Ben-Gal and Dr. Otto Joklik–the two alleged Israeli agents–was concluded with a verdict of two months’ imprisonment. The sentences were made retroactive to the date of their arrest March 2, thus effecting immediate release.
In presenting the verdict reached by a jury of six judges, Presiding Judge Emil Heberli said that the court found that Ben-Gal was “an upright and honorable man” and that his bid to induce Dr. Paul Goercke, a West German scientist, to quit his work in Egypt on the development of non-conventional weapons and return to Germany by threatening the scientist’s daughter, Heidi, was made out of “ardent patriotism.” Dr. Heberli then continued:
“It is found that between Israel and Egypt reigns an underground war; it is found that Israel is in a position where it is vital to defend itself; it is found that important Egyptian statesmen and politicians have not concealed their views that Israel must be destroyed; it is found that Egypt plans rocket warfare against Israel and that the German scientists play a leading role in these plans aimed at Israel’s annihilation.
“We are not entitled to take a political position in the differences which separate Israel and Egypt but this political situation cannot be separated from the case at hand. It is obvious that under these political circumstances Israel is sometimes compelled to take measures that may not be wholly legal.” Having made that point, Dr. Heberli then stressed that “although the court understood this fact, it is its duty to see to it that these actions are not committed on Swiss territory.”
COURT SAYS DR. GOERCKE’S DAUGHTER WAS ‘NOT AN IDEAL WITNESS’
The court described the first contact of Ben-Gal and Joklik with Dr. Goercka’s daughter and then took up the matter of her testimony which had come under severe criticism both from the judges and from the defense attorneys. Dr. Heberli conceded that the daughter was “not an ideal witness” and that there had been “major contradictions” in her testimony. He excused the discrepancies on grounds it happened to many witnesses when there was a long interval between an act and testimony about the act.
He expressed the court view that more serious than such discrepancies was the fact that Miss Goercke “is still under a certain influence and pressure.” He referred to an Egyptian named Sameh who called himself a physician but was widely believed in Basle to be a secret agent sent with Miss Goercke to Basle to keep watch on her activities.
Dr. Heberli, again paying tribute to Ben-Gal’s love for Israel and fear for its security, added, however, that “in this particular case, Ben-Gal’s patriotism does him a disservice, because if he was given the order, he would return to Switzerland or to another country and repeat the same sort of incidents.”
He interred some doubts about Joklik’s motives, commenting that “these same considerations” applied to Joklik, too, “if his decision to work for Israel and abandon Egypt” had been taken on moral grounds.
SWISS NEUTRALITY INVOKED IN VERDICT ON ALLEGED ‘ISRAELI AGENTS’
In justifying the prison terms, the court president declared that while “this tribunal has a conscience, the basic principle in Switzerland is political neutrality and as such, the court in a judgment can show neither sympathy nor antipathy toward any of the participants in the case.”
He also said that an expulsion order against Joklik still stood and that he would be barred from coming to Switzerland again. A similar order against Ben-Gal has been approved by the federal state attorney, the court president said, and he also “will be barred from returning to Switzerland.”
The court deliberated for an unusually long time on the verdict, almost ten hours. A large crowd filled the court chamber and several dozen persons stood in front of the courtroom to hear the verdict.