TEL AVIV (Jun. 20)
Max Kritzman, a 57-year-old Chicago-born lawyer who belonged to the underground Irgun Zvai Leumi and defended its member brought to trial by the British in the pre-State-hood period, agreed last night to serve as defense counsel for Kozo Okamoto. In accepting the appointment by the Israel Bar Association, Kritzman observed that “A lawyer need not identify himself with the act of the defendant. What Okamoto did is an outrageous crime but he is entitled to legal defense.”
The trial of the “kamikaze” gunman captured in the Lydda Airport massacre May 30 was to have opened officially in Rehovoth yesterday but was postponed because no defense lawyer had been appointed and no premises were found large enough to accommodate the anticipated flood of journalists and spectators.
Kritzman had meetings scheduled today with Lt. Col. Abraham Frisch, the president of the three-member military tribunal that will try Okamoto and with the prisoner in his jail cell. The lawyer insisted that an interpreter be present at his interviews with his client so that the Japanese gunman would talk more freely. According to Kritzman, one reason Okamoto refused to cooperate with his previously appointed defense lawyer, Yaacob Hagler, was the difficulty in communications, since they conversed in English, a language foreign to both. Hagler resigned last week.
The lawyer hinted today that he might base his defense of Okamoto on insanity whether the defendant cooperated or not. Okamoto cannot be sentenced to death inasmuch as Lt. Col. Frisch is the only jurist on the military panel. Israeli law stipulates that at least two lawyers must sit on a panel that imposes capital punishment.
Okamoto will be tried under emergency regulations very similar to those under which Irgun members were tried during the Mandatory regime. Israel retained the British emergency regulations when it became a state. Kritzman was a familiar figure in the Mandatory courts. Among other Irgun members, he defended Dov Grunner who was captured during a raid on a British police station in Ramat Gan and was later executed. He also defended Irgun members captured after breaking out of Acre prison. Kritzman himself was detained three times by the British.