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Suspect in Rishon Le-zion Deaths Goes to Court, but Remains Silent

Ami Popper, charged with murdering seven Arab laborers in a May 20 shooting rampage near Rishon le-Zion, appeared Monday in Tel Aviv District Court to stand trial.

But the 21-year-old dishonorably discharged former Israel Defense Force soldier refused to utter a word. He would not even state his name.

The court accepted his silence as a not-guilty plea, after the three-judge panel upheld the findings of five psychiatrists who examined Popper while he was under observation at a mental hospital.

The psychiatrists found Popper mentally fit to stand trial. The judges said they would agree unless evidence to the contrary could be produced.

Popper’s lawyer, David Ofek, said the psychiatric testing was superficial and asked for more thorough tests to be made.

The lawyer admitted an insanity plea was the only possible defense. He asked to be relieved of the case, on grounds that his client refused to speak to him.

The court rejected the request, but postponed further hearings for several weeks.

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