JERUSALEM (Sep. 25)
Zeev Friedman, former deputy mayor of Kiryat Arba, confessed in court Friday to the destruction of evidence linked to the attempted assassinations of three Arab mayors on the West Bank on June 2, 1980.
He admitted that he deliberately destroyed explosives discovered in Kiryat Arba in the spring of 1982 but insisted he did so only to protect the good name of the Orthodox township adjacent to Hebron which he thought would be besmirched by the media had the evidence been introduced in court.
Friedman and Moshe Rosenthal, the Kiryat Arba security officer at the time, went on trial 10 months ago charged with illegal possession of fire arms and wilful destruction of the evidence.
They are the only two suspects charged to date in connection with the series of bombings three years ago which permanently crippled Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Mayor Karin Khallaf of Ramallah. A Druze police sapper, Suleiman Herbawi, was blinded while trying to dismantle a bomb intended for Mayor Ibrahim Tawil of El Bireh.
The attempted assassinations are widely believed to have been the work of Jewish militants seeking revenge for the ambush slaying of six yeshiva students by Palestinian terrorists in Hebron on May 2, 1980, exactly a month earlier. The trial, held behind closed doors, was opened to the press last Friday for the first time, despite vigorous protests by defense counsel.
ACCOUNT ON THE CHARGE SHEET
The explosives were discovered 18 months ago by an electrician working in the Kiryat Arba town hall. They were concealed behind a switch box wrapped in a plastic bag and newspapers bearing the date of the attacks on the mayors. The explosives were of Israel army type, set in a wooden frame with magnets.
According to the charge sheet, the electrician summoned Friedman and Rosenthal who took charge of the explosives. The prosecution maintains they were immediately aware that the device would be linked to the assassination attempts but instead of handing it over to security authorities, the two Kiryat Arba leaders defused the charges and destroyed the explosives near the town.
Friedman told the court Friday that he did not do this to conceal evidence but because he wanted to prevent the smearing of the name of Kiryat Arba in the mass media.” He claimed the media would have used the evidence to attack the town which is a Gush Emunim stronghold. Friedman said his act was at worst “not a very good show of citizenship” but in his view, not “a terrible offense.”
Presiding Judge Shalom Brenner chided the defense for objecting to an open trial. “It is a strange situation that counsel for the defense, not the State, asks for a trial behind closed doors,” he said. It was agreed that most of the sessions from now on will be open.