JERUSALEM (Jun. 13)
A suspected member of a Jewish terrorist underground who was indicted for attempted murder, had the charges against him reduced today after confessing to membership in a terrorist organization.
The suspect, not identified, is the first of 27 defendants to admit to membership in a terrorist group. His case is the second in which plea bargaining resulted in reduced charges against an alleged member of the underground believed responsible for acts of violence and planned acts of violence against Arabs on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. According to the prosecution, the confession will help prove that more than 20 other suspects facing trial were members of a terrorist underground. The defendant, by admitting to a lesser offense, faces a maximum penalty of five years in jail instead of the 20 year sentence he could have drawn if convicted of attempted murder. The attempt dated back to 1980 when suspected Jewish terrorists tried unsuccessfully to kill two members of the now outlawed Palestinian National Guidance Council — Dr. Ahad Natsche and Ibrahim Dakkak.
Last week, Noam Yinnon of Moshav Keshet on the Golan Heights, was sentenced by a Jerusalem district court to 18 months imprisonment. A second 18 month sentence was suspended. Yinnon, the first of the suspects to go to trial, received a fight sentence as a consequence of plea bargaining in which charges of attempted murder were dropped in exchange for a confession to illegal possession and transportation of explosives. The explosives were intended to blow up Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount.
Meanwhile, two army officers, Maj. Shlomo Levytan and Capt. Ronni Gilla continued to deny charges of complicity in the June, 1980 car bombings that maimed Mayors Bassam Shaka of Nablus and Karin Khallaf of Ramallah and permanently blinded a Druze police sapper.
The existence of a Jewish terrorist underground, long suspected, was finally confirmed when security forces, acting on inside information, foiled a plan to blow up five Arab owned buses in East Jerusalem last April 27. The bombs planted in the buses were timed to detonate during the peak of rush hour on the Moslem sabbath when the vehicles would be passing through densely populated Arab neighborhoods. Had the plan succeeded, incalculable damage would have been done Israel’s image abroad.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir and other leaders of the government and opposition promptly denounced the plot and the Jewish terrorists believed responsible. But as the investigation proceeded, linking the suspects with prominent figures in the West Bank settlement movement, militants of the Gush Emunim and other extremists hailed the defendants as heroes who were forced to act because the government failed to protect Jews against Arab terrorist acts.
One of the suspects was released from custody for six hours yesterday to attend the wedding of his sister at the Patriarchs Tomb in Hebron. The wedding became an enthusiastic rally for all of the suspects. Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who performed the ceremony, praised the indicted men and proclaimed that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews by the power of “the Patriarchs and Matriarchs buried here.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, Prof. Ephraim Uhrbach, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences, accused the leaders of the government of indirect responsibility for the existence of Jewish terrorists because they created “an atmosphere of unbridled euphoria.” Uhrbach, who is an Orthodox Jew, spoke at a meeting of Netivot Shalom, a religious peace group.