The Palestinian Authoritys sham trial of individuals who may have been connected to the murders of three Americans last year does not meet serious standards of justice, a U.S. State Department official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on February 9, 2004. Similarly, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer said: We dont believe that this is the way to proceed. We want to see an open trial. Were not even sure that the charge sheet reflects the gravity of the crime. (Haaretz, Feb. 9, 2004)
The trial was suddenly staged this week, after the Bush administration criticized the PAs inaction on the case and after the U.S. placed ads in Palestinian Arab newspapers offering a $5-million reward for information leading to capture of the killers of three U.S. Embassy security personnel in Gaza last October. (Unfortunately, the U.S. has never placed such ads in the cases of the other 48 Americans who have been murdered by Palestinian Arabs since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993.) The trial is being held behind closed doors, and the four suspects are being charged for weapons possession and bomb-planting, with no charge directly related to the murder of the Americans.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) points out that this is just the latest in a long series sham trials staged by the Palestinian Authority in order to falsely claim that it was punishing terrorists:
- PA OFFICIAL ADMITS TRIALS ARE A SHAM TO PROTECT TERRORISTS: PA cabinet minister Nabeel Shaath was interviewed by the pro-Arafat newspaper Jerusalem Times on Jan.10, 1997. The interviewer asked: The PA sentenced the three Palestinian responsible for killing two Israelis near Surda, Ramallah, within a few hours of their arrest. How do you explain this? Shaath replied: Israel has the right to seek custody of any Palestinian responsible for killing an Israeli only if the Palestinian authorities have been negligent in their handling of the matter. _Therefore it is important that we bring offenders to trial as soon as possible, in order to prevent their extradition to Israel.
- LABOR GOVT STUDY FINDS MOST PA TRIALS ARE A SHAM: A November 2000 report by the Israeli Labor government headed by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, surveying the period from 1993-2000, concluded: In cases where perpetrators of murders and other serious terrorist attacks were in fact apprehended by the PA at times, claiming that this was little more than protective custody against Israeli retaliation they were put on trial overnight and given bogus sentences, so as to render them unavailable for extradition. (Quoted by the Israeli news service Itim, March 1, 2000)
- RABINS JUSTICE MINISTER SAYS PA STAGES TRIALS TO BLOCK EXTRADITIONS: David Libai, Minister of Justice in the Israeli Labor government headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, condemned the mock trials staged by the PLO to avoid the need to hand over suspects to Israel. The result is that Gaza and Jericho are turned into safe havens for those who have murdered Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority is single-handedly creating for itself the image of supporting the murder of Israelis and abetting the murderers. (Jerusalem Post Foreign Service, Sept. 13, 1995)
- PEACE WATCH STUDY FINDS MOST PA TRIALS ARE A SHAM: The non-partisan organization Peace Watch, which studied PA trials and the sentencing of terrorists during the period May 1994-May 1996, concluded that in the 37 cases in which terrorists were convicted by PA courts, The individuals who were tried were not, for the most part, directly involved in terror attacks against Israelis. Those directly involved were tried as a means of forestalling extradition to Israel, and were disproportionately likely to be given early releases. In no cases were the hardcore leadership of the terror groups tried
11 of the 26 Palestinians sentenced to prison terms of two years or more were released early, including 8 of the 14 Hamas members. (Peace Watch Report on PA Prevention of Terrorism, May 1994-May 1996, pp.45-46.)
- PAS RUSE TO MAKE IT SEEM KILLERS ARE IN JAIL: In September 1995, Youssef Rai and Shaher Rai were arrested and jailed in a 10-minute trial for damaging Palestinian national interests, rather than as accomplices to murder, despite the fact that they brutally murdered two Israeli hikers in Wadi Kelt on July 18, 1995. They were supposedly sentenced to twelve years in prison, and PA secret police chief Tawfik Tirawai escorted U.S. officials to the Jericho prison in early 1998 and were shown a four-man cell, with Shaher Rai sitting in it But, The Jerusalem Report has learned, the visit was an elaborate ruse to placate the Americans. The Rais are prisoners only in name [they are] leading normal lives outside the prison walls Eyewitnesses have seen them at coffee shops and markets in the town, in the company of family members and friends. The Rais represent the rule, not the exception. (Jerusalem Report, March 5, 1998)