Okamoto Does Face Death Penalty, Lawyer Says

An Israeli lawyer who is an authority on the military code said here today that contrary to widespread belief, the military tribunal now trying Kozo Okamoto can impose the death penalty. The lawyer, Evyatar Levin, said the authority to pronounce the maximum sentence depended on the terms under which the tribunal was appointed.

When the three-man panel was named last month by Army Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar, it was believed that capital punishment was ruled out because only one member, the tribunal’s president, Lt. Col. Abraham Frisch, is a lawyer. Israeli law requires that at least two members of a military tribunal be jurists in order to impose a death sentence. Levin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that this rule applied only to a tribunal appointed under emergency regulations in the occupied territories. He said that a military tribunal appointed under the military code which is part of the Israeli penal code and which sits inside Israeli territory can impose capital punishment without having two jurists on the bench.

The tribunal trying the Japanese “kamikaze” gunman captured in the May 30 Lydda Airport massacre was appointed under the Israeli penal code which stems from the British emergency regulations in effect during the Palestine mandate. Inasmuch as it is sitting in Israel and is trying a crime committed on Israeli territory, it can impose the death penalty, Levin said.

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