Widespread Anger over Pending State Appeal for Tougher Sentences for Five Jewish Underground Members
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Widespread Anger over Pending State Appeal for Tougher Sentences for Five Jewish Underground Members

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There were angry reactions from the Likud and other rightwing parties today at the news that the state will appeal for tougher sentences to be imposed on five members of the Jewish underground.

The decision, by the State Prosecutor’s Department, was taken upon the guidance and instruction of Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir-and it was against him that the bulk of the political criticism was directed.

Deputy Premier and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir gave vent to his own displeasure in a radio interview today. Minister Yosef Shapira (Morasha) accused Zamir of insensitivity to public opinion and Likud faction chief Haim Kaufman said he would revive consultations between the Likud and other rightist parties on special legislation designed to grant all of the Jewish underground members clemency and reprieves.


The five were among 15 underground men sentenced to varying terms of jail on July 22. Ten other members of the group had been sentenced earlier, following plea bargaining between their counsel and the state. The five men involved are:

*Barak Nir’s most serious conviction was for his participation in the killing of students at the Hebron College. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment by the three-man Jerusalem district court.

One of the district court judges, in his minority ruling, felt Nir should serve 15 years-and this is what the state prosecution will ask of the Supreme Court where the appeals will be heard. Nir was also involved in the plot to blow up the Mosque of Omar, in the attacks on the West Bank mayors, and in other crimes committed by the underground.

*Haim Ben-David was sentenced to 42 months in prison for his role in plotting to blow up the Arab buses, plotting to blow up the Mosque, involvement in the attacks on the mayors, and a string of lesser crimes. The state, in its appeal, points out that Gilad Peli, one of the underground who was tried before a different bench, received 10 years for similar convictions. Peli, meanwhile has filed an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

*Yitzhak Novik, Haggai Segal and Nathan Natanson all received three years imprisonment, and an additional suspended term, for their roles in the attacks on the mayors. The court accepted the defense contention that these attacks were not meant to kill-and thus the conviction was for causing grievous bodily harm.

But the prosecution nevertheless contends that the gravity of this crime, and the string of lesser crimes proven against the three–membership in a terrorist organization, illegal possession of weapons, illegal transportation of explosives–should have drawn heavier penalties.


In the appeal papers, drawn up by Deputy State Prosecutor Dorit Beinish, the state argues that the lower court gave inordinate weight to the personal circumstances and personalities of the accused men, and insufficient weight to the gravity of their offences.

Beinish cites from the district court’s own judgement that the crimes threatened the foundations of Israeli democracy and that they were especially serious because they were perpetrated with weapons and explosives stolen from the Israel Defense Force.

Sources in the Prosecutor’s Department made it clear they felt other sentences were also too light. But they had decided to appeal only against the excessively light terms.

The appeal decision followed a formal consultation between Zamin and Justice Minister Moshe Nissim (Likud-Liberal), but Nissim’s office made it clear in a statement that the prerogative and responsibility were Zamir’s alone.


In a separate court proceeding, meanwhile, the Supreme Court today rejected an appeal by Alan Goodman, the 43-year old American who is serving a life sentence for murder committed on the Temple Mount in April 1982.

Goodman killed an Arab guard and wounded another guard and a policeman when he sprayed the Mount precinct with bullets from his army-issue automatic rifle. His lawyers argued that he was mentally disturbed, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and therefore not responsible for his actions.

But the Supreme Court ruled that he had feigned the illness to psychiatric examiners. In fact, the court held, while his loathing of Arabs was deep and passionate, he was sufficiently in command of his mental faculties to be able to control himself.

The court ruled, though, that a 20-year-term imposed on him in addition to his life term should run contemporaneously with his life term.

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