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Jewish Terrorist Suspects in Court

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Suspected members of a Jewish terrorist underground, all under indictment for a series of criminal offenses and planned acts of violence against Arabs, mingled freely with friends and relatives in a Jerusalem district court yesterday.

The court convened to hear the prosecution’s request to retain 23 of the suspects in custody until the end of legal proceedings. Seven were remanded for an additional period and the court reconvened today to hear further arguments from prosecution and defense counsel.

But it released one suspect today for six hours to attend his sister’s wedding and another is to be released for five hours tomorrow for the circumcision of his son. Each will be escorted by a police officer and must post 500,000 Shekels bail.

In testimony yesterday the lawyers for one defendant said that Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, head of a yeshiva in Kiryat Arba on the West Bank, had knowledge of an alleged plot to attack the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, site of two Moslem shrines. According to the lawyer, whose client cannot be identified to the public, the defendant discussed the plot with Waldman and backed away from the plan when the rabbi said he was against the idea.

Waldman, who holds the fourth spot on the election list of the ultra-nationalist Tehiya Party, was detained for questioning last month about prior knowledge of the Temple Mount plot.

According to Itim, the Israeli news agency, the unidentified suspect confessed to conspiracy to attack the Temple Mount and to illegal possession of arms. The prosecution agreed, in exchange, to drop charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Charges against a suspect known only as defendant No. 17 states that he and others in the group conducted about 20 surveillance missions on the Temple Mount to learn how the area is guarded. The defendant also purchased a Uzi submachinegun and handgun silencers from a civilian who introduced himself as an army officer.

SEEN AS FAMILY REUNION

The district court session yesterday was described by observers as “more a family reunion than a criminal proceeding.” The small courtroom was packed with journalists and families of suspects and a dozen or more lawyers. The suspects sat on spectator benches where they mingled with their families and freely passed notes. They entered and left the courtroom without escort. One defendant reportedly argued with a journalist over use of a public telephone in the lobby.

Observers regarded the entire scene as unusual inasmuch as all of the suspects are under arrest and charged with serious crimes. The Justice Ministry refused to comment, saying what went on in court was outside its jurisdiction. The Chief Prosecutor, Dorit Beinish, said she only knew what she read in the newspapers. She added that watching the suspects was the job the police. The police spokesman was not available for comment.

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