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4 Accused Bombers Tried in Jerusalem

October 6, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ Four Arab residents of Jerusalem, accused of helping bombers carry out three attacks that killed 35 people and wounded almost 200, went on trial Sunday amid a flood of insults from relatives of the Israeli victims.

The relatives denounced the families of the accused as they waited outside the Jerusalem District Court, and then cursed the four accused inside the court, before the judges came in.

Relatives shouted obscenities and insults at the accused. ``You should all be strung up on a crane,″ said Gila Arazi, aunt of Danit Dagan, who was killed with her fiancee when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Cafe Moment in Jerusalem on March 9.

The case is unusual because the accused are residents of east Jerusalem, the mostly Palestinian sector of the city seized by Israel in 1967 and declared part of its capital. The Palestinians seek a capital in Jerusalem for their own state, but few of the sector’s Palestinian residents have been involved in violence over the past two years.

In addition to the March 9 attack, which killed 11, the defendants are also accused of helping to arrange a suicide bombing that killed 15 others at a pool hall in Rishon Letzion, near Tel Aviv, and planting a bomb at a cafeteria in Jerusalem’s Hebrew University that killed five Americans and four Israelis.

Inside the courtroom, a line of riot police stood separating the four defendants and their families from the angry relatives of the victims. The defendants _ Wael Qassem, Wissam Abassi, Ala Abassi and Muhammed Oudeh _ sat handcuffed to prison guards. The prisoners’ legs were also shackled.

Neither the accused nor their families responded to the stream of abuse. A young woman, wearing the traditional white headscarf of a Palestinian women, stood up to retort when one of the victim’s relatives made an insulting remark about the Muslim Prophet Muhammed, but an elderly man touched her shoulder and persuaded her not to reply.

Judge Yaacov Tsaban warned the victims’ relatives that he would insist on absolute silence during the trial. When one of them then said, ``Even for such scum?″, the judge had him expelled.

Because the accused live in Jerusalem, they have Israeli identity cards, which enabled them to move freely, unlike Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who are prevented from entering Israel.

The accused did not submit a plea Sunday, but defense counsel Abed Asali said they would acknowledge most of what is in the indictment. Asali was given two more weeks to prepare the defense.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian farmer was shot dead by Jewish settlers as he was harvesting olives near his village, Aqraba, in the northern West Bank, the village mayor said. Another Palestinian farmer was shot and wounded by the settlers, who came from the nearby settlement of Itamar, according to the Palestinian mayor, Ghaled Mayadme.

The Israeli police said they were investigating.

On the political front, European Union envoys Javier Solana and Miguel Moratinos had meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in an attempt to revive the peace process. Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan said he and the envoys were both trying to stop Palestinian bomb attacks inside Israel.

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