NEW YORK (Aug. 21)
Thirty district attorneys from throughout the United States sent a letter, today to President Hafez Assad of Syria requesting that a delegation representing the National District Attorneys Association be permitted to attend the trial of four Syrian men, two of them Jewish, accused of murdering four young Jewish women who tried to escape from Syria. The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 25.
The letter was handed to the Syrian United Nations Mission this morning by Robert F. Leonard, District Attorney of Genesee County, Mich., vice-president of the NDAA. According to Leonard, who addressed a press conference immediately afterwards, the letter was accepted by a Mission secretary who promised that it would be forwarded to Assad in Damascus.
The district attorneys also requested in their letter that the Syrian government “formally sanction the admission of the International press to observe and attend the trial” and that the NDAA delegation members be allowed to serve as counsel for the defendants “if they so desire.”
Another request was that the accused be assured of an open trial “with the application of all internationally accepted standards of due process in such a trial.” The district attorneys emphasized that they have taken no position on the question of guilt or innocence of the accused and that their interest stemmed from “a sincere regard for the basic principles of due process and the right to a fair trial throughout the world.”
Leonard said that Syria had an obligation to show the world that this trial is handled fairly. Quoting from the letter, he said that while “it is true that one of the charges against these four defendants is attempted smuggling of Syrian nationals to a foreign country, such a charge would raise many serious questions to the international community regarding the free right to travel.” In that connection, Leonard quoted the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Syria is a signatory, which guarantees the right to leave any country.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eugene Gold, one of the signers of the letter, told the press conference that “there can be no meaningful agreement between Israel and Syria unless the Syrian government bears its responsibility as a civilized nation.” He said there were many similarities between the situation of Jews in Syria and those in the Soviet Union. Gold is chairman of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry.
Other signatories of the letter were Preston Trimble, of Norman, Okla., president of the NDAA and the district attorneys of some of the nation’s largest cities and counties including Los Angeles Chicago, Philadelphia and White Plains, NY.