Capital Punishment for Terrorists May Have to Be Reconsidered

Police Minister Shlomo Hillel said today that the question of capital punishment for terrorists may have to be reconsidered. Appearing before the Knesset’s Interior Committee, he disputed the claim of its chairman, Likud leader Yosef Tamir, that the execution of terrorists would make martyrs out of them.

“Those terrorists who are killed in action are considered martyrs anyway,” Hillel said, and “capital punishment, therefore, may prove to be a deterrent.” He said the murder of hostages, as in last week’s Savoy Hotel tragedy, justified reconsideration of the issue but he did not say whether he would raise the subject in the Cabinet.

Capital punishment is barred by Israeli law though it may be imposed in extreme cases by a panel of civilian jurists. As terrorists are normally tried by military tribunals, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. A case in point is that of Kozo Okamoto, the sole survivor of the three Japanese Red Army “kamikaze” terrorists who perpetrated the Lod Airport massacre in 1972 and is now serving a life sentence

Hillel told the Knesset committee that the government has appointed a special ministerial team, aided by experts, to map out contingency plans for dealing with emergencies such as the Savoy Hotel attack.

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