JERUSALEM (Oct. 30)
Denis Michael William Rohan, the Australian accused of burning the El Aksa mosque in East Jerusalem last Aug. 21, took the witness stand in his own defense today as his trial resumed after a two-and-a-half week recess. He corroborated his earlier confession that he set fire to the Moslem shrine. He told the court that he “did it to prove to the world that God wants me to build his Temple and that he will set me up as King of Jerusalem and Judaea.”
Rohan is being tried on two counts of arson and two counts of violating a Holy Place. He faces a total of 44 years in prison. His defense counsellor, Yitzhak Tunik, has offered a plea of insanity. He said he would prove that Rohan, 28, was mentally unbalanced when he set fire to the mosque. Psychiatrists from Australia, who treated Rohan before he came to Israel, were expected to testify for the defense later.
Rohan, who testified from a bullet-proof glass booth, told presiding Judge Henry F. Baker that he became convinced that he was King-designate of Jerusalem and Judaea on the basis of three years of Bible studies and “visions” based on interpretations of the Scriptures. He said he was a member of the Church of God, a Protestant sect which, according to Rohan, believes that the Temple of Solomon must be re-built on its old site in Jerusalem before the Messiah will return Rohan refused to take an oath on religious grounds but agreed to make an affirmation to tell the truth, Rohan related to the court details of a disturbed childhood in Australia. He said he was removed from ordinary school, sent to a special institution and later to reform school. He said that he considered himself to be the cause of a series of floods and other natural disasters which led to a suicide attempt and his confinement to a mental institution.