A Jerusalem District Court judge is expected to pronounce sentence shortly on two confessed members of a Jewish underground network held responsible for a series of terrorist acts against West Bank Arabs, including murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to blow up Islamic shrines.
Rabbi Dan Beeri, 40, a French-born Catholic convert to Judaism, and Yossi Edri, 25, the first of nine defendants who reached plea bargaining agreements with the prosecution, testified this week. Beeri admitted complicity in a plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem. Charges of membership in a terrorist organization and attempted assassination of three West Bank Arab mayors in June, 1980, were dropped.
TWO IDF OFFICERS WILL BE TRIED SEPARATELY
Two Israel Defense Force officers, Shlomo Livyatar and Ronni Gilo, who were allegedly active in the underground, will be tried separately pending the outcome of the large trial which opened a year ago, after the underground was exposed by police.
Altogether, 27 men were indicted. One of them, Avinoam Katrielli, 24, was tried separately last year for illegal transportation of weapons in connection with the Temple Mount plot. He was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment, based on his confession.
Katrielli was released last month for good behavior after serving 10 months of his sentence. Two indicted suspects are still at large. But 18 remain in jail pending a court decision on the admissability of the confessions they made initially and later repudiated.
TRIAL HAS STRONG POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS
Most of the accused are Orthodox Jews from the West Bank, members or supporters of the militant Gush Emunim. Their trial has strong political ramifications. They were arrested after police foiled a plot to plant bombs in five Arab-owned buses in East Jerusalem. Subsequently they were linked to assorted acts of violence against West Bank Arabs over a four year period.
The trial created a sensation when it opened last spring. After several courtroom sessions the prosecution and defense agreed to a postponement until after the Knesset elections, held last July 23. It was resumed in September but the proceedings came to a virtual halt because of the disputed confessions. The accused were denied bail.
Beeri, in a statement to police in the early stages of the investigation, made public only two days ago, claimed that Rabbi Moshe Levinger, leader of the Gush Emunim in the Hebron area, participated in a meeting four years ago at which destruction of the Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount was discussed.
The meeting was held at Kiryat Arba, the Jewish township overlooking Hebron which is regarded as the main Gush Emunim stronghold in the West Bank. Beeri who admitted to being present, said it was attended by two of the alleged leaders of the underground, Menahem Livni and Yehuda Etzion, in addition to Levinger.
According to Beeri’s testimony, the destruction of the Islamic holy places was intended to provoke Egypt into abandoning the peace process with Israel, thereby forestalling the return of Sinai to Egypt.
The plan was not carried out at the time, according to Beeri, because the chief instigators were in Yamit attempting to thwart government orders to evacuate the Jewish township in Sinai. Beeri said that after Yamit was abandoned, he dropped out of the plot.
A CONTROVERSIAL SIDELIGHT
A controversial sidelight of Beeri’s testimony was the visit by the district court judges to the Heichel Shlomo, headquarters of the Chief Rabbinate, to hear Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu testify to Beeri’s good character and his excellence as a teacher and scholar. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir had ruled that the Chief Rabbis may not be summoned to court.
But MK Shulamit Aloni of the Citizens Rights Movement sharply criticized the judges. She maintained that their visit to the Chief Rabbi undermined the sovereignty of secular law in Israel and was in contempt of court.
Meanwhile, the police are continuing to search for the two missing suspects. One of them, lra Rappaport, is believed to be in the U.S. The other, Yossi Indor, reportedly is hiding out in Israel.
Until these latest developments, the trial had almost slipped from public view because of the protracted legal negotiations and the absence of dramatic confrontations. Two Knesset members, Deputy Speaker Meir Cohen-Avidov of Likud and Yuval Neeman, leader of the Tehiya Party, called attention to it recently when they visited the U.S. to raise funds from Jewish sympathizers for the families of the accused.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.