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Debate Continues About Fairness of Mass Trials for Rioters

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The dozens of Palestinians being brought before military courts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, on charges of rioting and other acts of violence, cannot possibly have “fair and just” trials, in the opinion of an Israeli lawyer with experience in the military courts.

Yaron Rabinowitz, a former military prosecutor in Gaza, said in an interview published Monday in Haaretz that when large numbers of defendants are made to appear in court at the same time, there is no way the judges can give their attention to each individual case.

“I witnessed trials in which a group of 40 defendants were brought before a judge. Those who pleaded guilty had to step forward and raise there hands. This is no way to hold a trial,” Rabinowitz said.

He also said there are simply not enough lawyers to defend the many Palestinian youths arrested during nearly three weeks of rioting in the administered territories.

“Even if the lawyers in the Gaza Strip rally to represent the latest detainees, every lawyer would have to represent at least 10 defendants,” Rabinowitz said. “Even the most competent lawyer cannot perform his duty properly, especially in a system of quick trials.”

At present, few of the detainees are represented by legal counsel. Lawyers in the Gaza Strip are boycotting the trials to protest the alleged mistreatment of the suspects. They say the arrests were so fast and so numerous that they had no time to prepare their clients’ cases.

But Israel Defense Force Judge Advocate General Amnon Streshnov has rejected those arguments. He said Sunday that while the military courts will seek speedy trials, the prisoners would not be denied their full rights under the law.

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