Trial of 104 Yeshiva Students Starts in Israel; Convent Head Testifies

A mass trial of 104 yeshiva students, accused of trespassing on the premises of Christian missionary schools in demonstrations staged September 10, started here today before Magistrate Eliezer Halevy.

A sharp dispute developed when Shmuel Tamir, counsel for the defense, objected to the magistrate’s ruling, holding that the nature of the schools, invaded by the demonstrations was not to be mentioned in the proceedings. Mr. Tamir insisted that the “character and aims” or St. Joseph Convent, one of the institutions invaded, must be spelled out to prove that the “essential ingredient” of the trespass was not criminal in intent.

“Even if the demonstrators were mistaken in their honest opinions regarding the nature of the institution, ” he argued, “it would be a travesty of justice if the accused would be deprived of the chance to explain their actions.”

Magistrate Halevy said at the end of the afternoon session of the day-long trial that he will rule tomorrow as to whether cross-examination will continue. It is believed that the defense will pursue its line of questioning about the “character and aims “of the convent if further cross-examination is permitted.

The first and only witness for the prosecution today was Jerusalem Julie Grasse, Mother Superior of St. Joseph Convent. She testified that, on the afternoon of September 10, she heard a commotion and saw 80 to 100 “religious persons” in the convent courtyard. She said that a nun. immediately locked the front doors, and that the demonstrators did not enter the convent edifice but “sat or squatted” without hurting anyone or injuring property. “They neither attacked nor damaged the premises,” she testified.

The Mother Superior said that she summoned police, who removed the demonstrators “without incident,” It was on cross-examination that Mr. Tamir tried time and again to develop the “character and aims” of the convent. But the magistrate just as persistently refused to permit questioning along that line.

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