JERUSALEM (Dec. 30)
A Jerusalem district court decreed today that the Australian sheep-herder, Michael Denis William Rohan, was not punishable under Israeli law for burning the El Aksa mosque in East Jerusalem last Aug. 21 because he suffered from a mental illness. The court ordered him committed to a mental hospital but did not specify where. Observers said that Rohan, who is in Israel on a visitor’s visa, may be deported to Australia.
Defense counsel Itzhak Tunik said he would not appeal the verdict, but prosecuting attorney Meir Shamgar said he might take it to the Israeli Supreme Court.
The president of the court which tried Rohan, Judge Henry Eli Baker, announced the verdict which took two hours to read. He said there was no doubt that the accused had committed the acts charged against him. But he suffered from a mental ailment that was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia which caused him “to live in a world of delusions.” According to the court, his illness was responsible for an “irresistible impulse” that was pathological and Rohan could not be said to have exercised volition in the accepted legal sense of the term. He could not therefore be held responsible for his action at the time. The court said that Rohan’s mental illness still existed and therefore he was ordered confined to a mental institution at the pleasure of the Minister of Justice.
Rohan sat calmly through the reading of the verdict. He left the court accompanied by a police guard without saying a word.