JERUSALEM (Aug. 25)
A blue ribbon committee set up to investigate the causes of a fire that severely damaged the El Aksa mosque in Old Jerusalem last Thursday held its first session here this morning and later toured the mosque area. The five-man panel appointed by the Israeli Cabinet, is headed by Supreme Court Justice Joel Sussman and includes two prominent Nazareth Arabs among its members.
Legal sources here said however that the arrest of an Australian national, Michael Denis William Rohen, on suspicion of having set the fire largely pre-empted the investigative aspects of the committee’s work. They said the panel would probably concentrate on a study of future security and fire-fighting needs at religious shrines.
Israeli Attorney General Meir Shamgar appeared before the group today and asked that it postpone its hearings until next Sunday, Aug. 31, at which time it would have complete details of the police investigation which led to Rohen’s arrest last Friday. Mr. Shamgar said he would probably file formal charges against Rohen by the end of the week and that his trial would begin ten days later. Justice Sussman indicated that his committee would not submit a formal report until Rohen’s trial and a possible appeal are over.
Sources here said that the government would try the Australian Protestant under the strictest security arrangements since the trial of Gestapo deportation chief Adolf Eichmann here a decade ago. But the government is planning to give the trial the most extensive world-wide press and television coverage.