NEW YORK (Nov. 5)
One year after the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the trial of his accused killer opened Monday with the combination of street-level violence and legal maneuvering that the former Knesset member used to publicize his controversial ideas.
Outside the Manhattan courtroom, a clash between Kahane followers and Arab demonstrators ended with one Arab protester charged with riot, assault and weapon possession after he struck a police officer with a placard.
Inside the building, lawyers for defendant El Sayyid Nosair outlined their client’s defense as the jury selection began. They said Nosair, who has been identified by over a dozen eyewitnesses, was the innocent victim of a conspiracy to assassinate Kahane.
But an article in last week’s Village Voice linked Egyptian-born Nosair to both Al Jihad, the Egyptian group behind the assassination of Anwar Sadat, and notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal.
Nosair’s lawyers denied the Voice charges, which were attributed to sources in the Mossad, the U.S. Justice Department and Egyptian intelligence.
According to Voice writer Robert I. Friedman, contributors to Nosair’s defense fund include an Egyptian American who spent two years in federal prison for attempting to smuggle 150 pounds of plastic explosives to the PLO for use in Israel, and another Egyptian involved in weapons smuggling to Afghan rebels.
As the trial opened, Justice Alvin Schlesinger denied a defense motion to exhume Kahane’s body from its grave in Israel for a more thorough autopsy.
He also denied a request that potential jurors fill out a detailed questionnaire on their religious beliefs. But he left open the question of whether the defense can orally question jurors on that topic.
‘OUR CONSTANT VIGILANCE’
Nosair is being charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and assault. He was apprehended after a gun battle with an off-duty postal inspector, who was wounded in the exchange.
To Kahane’s followers, the defense team represents both of Kahane’s major enemies, against which he saw himself struggling to warn the Jewish people: Moslem anti-Semitism and self-hating Jewish liberals.
Michael Warren, a Black Muslim, has previously defended Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Israel. William M. Kunstler, who is Jewish, has made a high-profile career defending radicals.
“If it weren’t for our constant vigilance, Kunstler might be ale to get Nosair off on a technicality,” boasted Ben Lemkin, a spokesman for Kahane Chai, meaning “Kahane lives.” The group is headed by Kahane’s 25-year-old son, Binyamin Ze’ev.
The younger Kahane was arrested last month during after an altercation at a news conference sponsored by the Nosair defense team.
Last week, Binyamin Kahane was expelled from Spain, after he and several of his followers blocked Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s car in Madrid, in protest against the peace talks.