Adalah Opposes Prosecutor’s Attempt to Reschedule MK Bishara’s Trial


On 27 November 2001, Jerusalem District Attorney Moshe Lador filed a motion to the Jerusalem Magistrate Court requesting that MK Dr. Azmi Bishara’s trial, currently set to begin on 21 February 2002, be rescheduled to an earlier date and that a short schedule be set for hearings on the case.


Adalah represents Dr. Bishara on two cases. At the trial currently set to begin on 21 February 2002, Dr. Bishara faces charges pursuant to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (1948), in connection with political speeches he gave in Syria and in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahem, Israel. A second case against Dr. Bishara, pertaining to violations of the Emergency Regulations (Departure for Abroad) (1948) will begin in the Nazareth Magistrate Court on 10 December 2001. This case relates to visits that Dr. Bishara organized whereby elderly Palestinian citizens of Israel traveled to Syria to see relatives from whom they have been separated since 1948.


District Attorney Lador argued that, due to the nature of the charges that Dr. Bishara is facing and the poor security situation that currently exists in Israel, the Court should hear his case as quickly as possible. In advancing this argument, Mr. Lador characterized Dr. Bishara as a “Member of Knesset and a leader who supports terror organizations, and who calls on these organizations to use terror against Israeli citizens.”


Judge Amnon Cohen granted Adalah seven days to respond to the prosecutor’s motion.


Many Israeli legal experts expressed surprise at the District Attorney’s motion, particularly at the harsh rhetoric used against Dr. Bishara.


Adalah argues that:


1. The District Attorney’s statements are not based on the facts as set forth in the indictment against Dr. Bishara, nor are they based on the arguments made by the Attorney General before the Knesset in seeking the removal of Dr. Bishara’s parliamentary immunity. They are biased, politically motivated statements without basis in fact, that threaten to prejudice the Court against Dr. Bishara before his trial has even begun.


2. If the Court were to accept the District Attorney’s motion, it would legitimize his arguments before the general public, violating Dr. Bishara’s basic rights as a defendant.


3. The District Attorney is trying to rush to judgment in an exceptional case with far-reaching implications for Israeli society. In so doing, the prosecutor seeks to prevent Dr. Bishara from being well prepared in defending his case.


4. Advancing the date of Dr. Bishara’s trial will violate his rights, especially given that the case involving the Syria visits is being heard on 10 December 2001 in the Nazareth Magistrate Court, which also demands considerable preparation.


5. Dr. Bishara intends to bring expert witnesses from abroad. Advancing the date of his trial may make it impossible for these witnesses to attend.


6. Adalah has not yet received all of the materials involved in the investigation. It is essential that Adalah, as his lawyers, be adequately prepared to defend Dr. Bishara.


For these reasons, Adalah opposes advancing the start date for Dr. Bishara’s trial.


For further information, please contact:


Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel

Tel: +972.4.950.1610

Fax: +972.4.950.3140