MK Dr. Azmi Bishara Asks the Supreme Court to Transfer his Case


Today, MK Dr. Azmi Bishara submitted a motion to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel asking to transfer one of his criminal case files, opened before the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, to the Nazareth or Haifa Magistrate Court. Attorney Hassan Jabareen of Adalah, representing Dr. Bishara, filed this motion pursuant to Article 78 of the Courts Law (1984), which authorizes the Chief Justice to order the transfer of a case from one district to another.


On 11 November 2001, Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein filed two indictments against MK Bishara. The first indictment, filed before the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, concerns MK Bishara’s two political speeches, one delivered in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahem in Israel and one made in Syria. The first hearing on this case is currently scheduled for 21 February 2002. The second indictment, filed before the Nazareth Magistrate Court, concerns MK Bishara’s assistance to Palestinian citizens of Israel in visiting their relatives in Syria. The first hearing on this case is set for 10 December 2001.


Attorney Jabareen argued in the motion that: “The indictment in the Jerusalem file refers to two political speeches made by Bishara, one in Umm al-Fahem and the other in Syria. That is, according to the indictment, the locus delicti [the place where an offense was committed] is Umm al-Fahem, which belongs to jurisdiction of the Haifa District Court. Further, although Dr. Bishara rents apartment in Jerusalem, his permanent address, as noted in the indictment, is in Nazareth; his center of life, the location of his office, and the main headquarters of his political party are also in Nazareth. Despite these facts, the state, as represented by the Attorney General’s Office chose, without any substantial justification, to file the indictment in the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.”


Further, the majority of the witnesses to be called by the prosecution and the defense reside in the northern district, and the second criminal case file is already before the Nazareth Magistrate Court. Both cases demand a special effort from Dr. Bishara and a prolonged stay in the north. Managing one of the cases in Jerusalem will cause an unnecessary burden that could and must be avoided. The principles of justice, decency and reasonableness mandate that both cases be heard in the northern district.


Moreover, Attorney Jabareen claimed that: “Opening a criminal case in Jerusalem and not in the northern district, raises many suspicions concerning the good faith of the prosecution, and of course, damages the principle of public transparency. This transparency is required due to the public interest and political sensitivity that this indictment raises.”