Friday, October 04, 2002

Arnold Roth, whose 15-year old daughter Malki was killed in the Sbarro bombing in Aug 2001, has been in attendance at the Marwan Barghouti trial and left a couple of messages in my blog comments (to which I added paragraph breaks).

First comment:

The lead lawyer of the three who addressed the Tel-Aviv district court yesterday on behalf of Marwan Barghouti, spent much of his time developing the argument of "parliamentary immunity" for his client. On this basis, Jawad Boulos said, Barghouti ought not to be tried in an Israeli court. This has serious implications. It implies *no* court could ever try him on terror/murder charges. Immunity -- what a wonderful notion! Sitting there in the over-filled court room, I fantasized trying to explain to my murdered fifteen year old daughter Malki how immunity would work. Barghouti can finance, organize and plan massacres of civilians like the one which destroyed my daughter's life and my family's last year... and then sit back and laugh the cynical, ice-cold laugh I saw yesterday. Anyone know a parliamentary immunity doctrine that works like this?

Contrary to the impression conveyed by press reports, most of the victim families present in court yesteday (outnumbered, in my estimation, by Barghouti supporters and quasi-lawyers) did NOT engage in violent clashes with anyone. I'm one.

Second comment:

Another thought about the Barghouti proceedings on Thursday.

The BBC report quotes Khader Shkeirat accusing "Israeli police of beating and shoving him when he tried to get to Mr Barghouti in the crowded courtroom." Having sat there and seen it all, I know he's bending the facts.

He arrived after proceedings started and gave the impression of itching for a fight. He was decked out in a black legal robe (required dress for lawyers in courts here) as were four or five other Arabs who may or may not have been members of Barghouti's legal team. (These were in addition to the three who actually addressed the court. The adequateness of the man's representation is beyond doubt, at least in terms of numbers.) Boulos, the lead lawyer, who was in the middle of presenting his arguments, advised the judge that Shkeirat is not admitted to the Israeli bar.

On that basis, Shkeirat was told he could not sit at the already-full bar table. Choosing to stand in the aisle near the door at the back, he was visibly edgy and irritated, and seemed intent on picking a fight. Eventually he got into one - not clear to me with whom - which clearly disturbed the proceedings. When the Israeli security men who ringed the court made their move, it was an elegant piece of "social engineering" which got him out the door in seconds.

In general, the security people were polite to the point of walking on eggshells throughout a difficult day's proceedings, at least until bedlam broke out after the hearing itself ended. Hard for me to imagine court officials being quite as careful and considerate in other jurisdictions (I'm thinking of US and Australian court systems, both of which I know fairly well), given the intense hostility of the people passing through their hands.

Thanks Arnold. And please feel free to keep us updated.

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