JERUSALEM (Sep. 16)
The trial of 20 suspected members of a Jewish terrorist underground was resumed in district court here today after a two-and-a-half month recess. Presiding judge Yaacov Bazak rejected a defense request for further postponement.
Indictments were returned last April against 27 men, mostly West Bank settlers, for the alleged perpetration of terrorist acts against Arabs in the territory and Jerusalem over a four year period beginning in 1980. They were also charged with an attempt to bomb Arab-owned buses in East Jerusalem and conspiracy to blow up Moslem shrines on the Temple Mount–both acts foiled by police.
SEPARATE TRIAL FOR TWO NEXT MONTH
Five of the accused, tried separately last spring, were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 10 years. Two other suspects, both former officers in the West Bank military government, will be tried separately next month. The trial of the remaining 20 was suspended last June 27, with the consent of the prosecution, to be resumed on September 16 when the courts reconvened after summer recess.
But several of the defendants asked for additional time to appeal to the Supreme Court and to obtain classified documents. The defense claims these will prove that some of the activities attributed to the underground were known at the time to the authorities and even had their consent. The trial will proceed, however, and defense attorneys are expected to argue later this week that there was no such thing as a Jewish “terror organization.”
CHARGES AGAINST A KEY DEFENDANT
One of the key defendants, Menahem Livni, identified by some as leader of the underground, is accused of coordinating the alleged acts of terror. These include car bombings in June, 1980 which crippled two West Bank Arab mayors and blinded an Israeli Druze police sapper; a machinegun and grenade attack on the Islamic College in Hebron in 1983 in which three students were killed and 33 wounded; and the planting of bombs in five Arab-owned buses timed to explode when the buses were travelling through heavily Arab-populated neighborhoods in East Jerusalem last April.
Police, acting on inside information, foiled the plot. The arrests and subsequent interrogations of suspects indicated a link between that plan and an earlier attempt to plant high explosives at the Dome of the Rock and the El Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, two of the holiest shrines of Islam. The suspects are also accused of opening fire on a bus carrying Arab laborers from the West Bank to jobs in Israel, causing several injuries at the scene.
Although a number of suspects confessed to one or more of the charges, all of the 20 subsequently pleaded not guilty. Several of them are expected to challenge the statements they made to police on grounds that they were extracted by threats and promises.