94-year-old Nazi war criminal deemed unfit to stand trial in Germany


Prosecutors in Stuttgart are shelving their war crimes investigation of a 94-year-old man who already was convicted of Nazi war crimes in Italy.

Former SS soldier Wilhelm Kusterer of Engelsbrand —  who was found guilty of involvement in the massacre of 770 civilians in Marzabotto, Italy, in 1944 and sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 2008 — was too ill to stand trial, the prosecutors said. A spokesman for the prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to get a conviction in Germany, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The German investigation was launched in 2013.

In March 2015, Kusterer, who had served for years in the Engelsbrand parliament as a member of the Social Democratic Party, received an honorary medal for social services from his town. But he returned the medal last March following protests mounted from Italy against honoring a convicted war criminal.

Marine Le Pen Faces trial for comparing Muslim prayer to Nazi occupation


French far-right party leader Marine Le Pen will go on trial for comparing Muslim street prayers to wartime Nazi occupation, a party official and the prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

Le Pen, whom polls see likely to win a regional election in northern France in December, has widened the National Front’s appeal since she took its helm in 2011 by expelling extremists and cracking down on anti-Semitism.

But the party also thrives on concerns over immigration. In a meeting in 2010, Le Pen criticized Muslims praying in the streets when mosques are full.

She will be judged on Oct. 20 over charges of “incitement to discrimination over people’s religious beliefs,” the prosecutor’s office in Lyon said. Party official Wallerand de Saint-Just confirmed the FN had been informed of the trial.

Le Pen had told the 2010 rally in Lyon: “I’m sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War II, if we’re talking about occupation, we could talk about that (street prayers), because that is clearly an occupation of the territory.”

“It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighborhoods in which religious law applies, it is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation anyhow, and it weighs on people,” she added.

Accused Kansas City shooter opens trial with anti-Semitic allegations


The white supremacist on trial for murdering three people outside Jewish institutions in suburban Kansas City said in his opening statement that he plans to prove that white people are the victims of genocide at the hands of the Jews.

At his capital murder trial Monday in Olathe, Kansas, Frazier Glenn Miller said he will also prove that Jews control the media, and that he has photos and videos to prove his claims, the Kansas City television station KSHB reported.

Miller, 74, who is also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, is representing himself in the trial in Johnson County District Court. He is charged with murdering three people in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 13, 2014. None of his victims were Jewish. The crimes were committed outside a Jewish community center and outside a nearby Jewish assisted living facility.

During his opening statement, Miller also said to the jury, “If you believe that our people have a right to survive on the earth, and the right to preserve our heritage and our culture and Western civilization itself, and the right to ensure a safe future for white children, then I’m confident that your consciences and your love for our people will cause you to find me innocent of all charges.”

Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan interrupted Miller’s statement and sent the jury out of the room, telling Miller that his ideas about Jews are not relevant in this phase of the trial, according to Reuters.

“If I can’t explain why I did it, then I have no chance of being found not guilty,” Miller responded.

The prosecution in its opening statements, which preceded Miller’s, focused on the three victims: William Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, and Terri Lamanno. The prosecution also noted that in a phone call to a friend six months after the shooting, Miller said, “I did it and I’m proud of it. I planned it, I plotted it, I schemed it.”

If convicted, Miller could receive the death penalty.

German court cancels trial for Auschwitz medic, 94


A German court will not put on trial a 94-year-old man who was charged as an accomplice in thousands of murders at Auschwitz, saying he was mentally unfit to stand trial.

The district court of Neubrandenburg on Monday announced the decision in the case of Hubert Z., a medic at the concentration camp. The defendant suffers from dementia, the court found, and his mental state is worsening with no chance of improvement.

The state prosecutor in Schwerin is considering an appeal, the SVZ online newspaper reported.

Hubert Z. had been charged as an accomplice in the murders of 3,681 people in the Auschwitz gas chambers from Aug. 15, 1944-Sept. 14, 1944. He reportedly was a member of an SS paramilitary unit at the time.

A spokesman for the prosecution, Stefan Urbanek, told SVZ that there also is “evidence that the defendant could stand trial.”

The state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania reportedly has investigated an additional 15 cases over the past two decades, but never brought any of them to trial due to a lack of evidence of personal involvement in crimes, according to reports.

Trial begins for main suspect in revenge murder of Palestinian teen


The trial began for the main suspect in the kidnap and revenge murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Yosef Haim Ben-David reportedly announced in Jerusalem District Court on Sunday that he is “the messiah.”

Ben-David, 29, of the Adam settlement near Jerusalem is expected to enter an insanity. He owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem.

Attorney Aharon Roza asked that Ben-David be examined by an outside psychiatrist to determine his fitness for trial, the Times of Israel reported.

Ben-David is accused of beating 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir unconscious and then burning him to death. He and two other suspects, both 16-year-old males — from Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh — told investigators that the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murder last month of three Israeli teens.

The suspects have admitted to the murder and reenacted it for police.

Ben-David, who was committed to a mental hospital in recent months after allegedly attempting to murder his infant daughter, also is charged with attempting to kidnap a 7-year-old boy from eastern Jerusalem a day before the murder of Khdeir.

Khdeir was kidnapped from his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2 and murdered hours later, less than a day after the funerals of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

 

The story behind the Hotel Shangri-La anti-Semitism trial


It was late in the afternoon on Aug. 15, a Wednesday, when the jury delivered its verdict to a Santa Monica courtroom. The discrimination case that had been brought against the oceanfront boutique Hotel Shangri-La by a group of young Jews had been going on for nearly four weeks, and the jurors had taken five full days for their deliberations. It was so late in the day, in fact, that James Turken, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, and some of his clients who were still standing by, had to be let into the locked courthouse building in Santa Monica by a security guard.

And even though Turken was already hopeful that the jury’s prolonged deliberation might mean good news for his side, it wasn’t until the attorney took a seat in the courtroom that he found out for certain just how overwhelming their victory was.

A court employee had already begun reading the jury’s verdicts for each of the 18 individual plaintiffs, and, with each additional decision, the message became increasingly clear: The jury firmly believed Turken’s clients’ allegations that the hotel and its president, CEO and part-owner, Tehmina Adaya, had illegally discriminated against them, solely because they were Jewish.

The total amount in damages and statutory payments awarded to the plaintiffs on that day added up to about $1.2 million. On the following day, because the jury found the defendants had acted with “malice, oppression and fraud” against most of the plaintiffs, they would also impose a fine on Adaya and the hotel of $440,000 in punitive damages — bringing the size of the total penalties to more than $1.6 million.

But Turken was already elated on Wednesday.

“Home run,” Turken whispered to this reporter. “Home run.”

This story dates back to two years before, to July 11, 2010, when the plaintiffs, most of them affiliated with the Young Leadership Division of the local chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), all attended a pool party organized by the group at the Shangri-La.

The group had made arrangements for the event through an event promoter, Scott Paletz, who had been bringing people to the hotel’s rooftop restaurant since March of that year. Starting at 11 a.m. on that Sunday, the FIDF group had been allotted a cordoned-off area on the pool’s deck, where members had installed a pair of banners announcing their presence. At a check-in table in the courtyard, a blue shirt was displayed with the word “Legacy,” the FIDF program the group was fundraising for that day. It’s a program that brings the young relatives of Israeli soldiers killed in the line of duty for a month-long stay at a summer camp in the U.S.

Adaya, 48, a Pakistani-born Muslim, was also at the pool that day, there to watch the World Cup final game in her cabana. After examining some of the FIDF group’s promotional literature, Adaya instructed members of her staff to take a number of actions against the group — including forcing the FIDF group to take down its banners, literature and other evidence of the organization’s presence. Many of the plaintiffs testified to seeing hotel security guards inform some of the FIDF guests, all easily identified by the blue promotional wristbands they were wearing, that they were not allowed to swim in the pool, or even dangle their feet into the water. The plaintiffs also alleged they heard from a hotel employee that Adaya had made comments about wanting to remove “the [expletive] Jews” from the hotel or the pool.

The hotel staff did not forcibly kick out the attendees of the FIDF party, but their actions, the plaintiffs said, ruined the party. Though it had been expected to last into the evening, the day ended when the plaintiffs left the hotel, around 5 p.m., according to testimony during the trial.

Many of the plaintiffs (most, but not all, of them Jews) also testified that they could not believe they were experiencing discrimination of this sort, at a chic hotel in Santa Monica, in 2010. But that’s precisely what they came to believe had happened, and they were able to convince the jury that Adaya and the hotel had violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a far-reaching California state law that outlaws discrimination on the basis of “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

The law entitles all Californians to “the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever,” and though it was adopted in 1959, a time when the most egregious forms of discrimination were directed against African Americans and other people of color, the statute clearly applies to religious groups, as well.

None of the legal experts interviewed for this article could point to a previous case in which the Unruh Act had been used to affirm the rights of Jews in the way that it was in the Shangri-La case, however. (One case, Sinai Memorial Chapel v. Dudler, had been brought in 1991 by a Jewish plaintiff and cited the Unruh Act, but in that instance the plaintiff was accusing other Jews of discriminating against her because she came from Russia.)

“I don’t think it makes new law, because it simply affirmed that there was a violation of existing law,” Turken said of the Shangri-La victory. “But do I think the case is important? Yeah, I think it’s important. My clients wanted the defendants held up to the world and found liable — and that happened.”

Built in 1939, the Art Deco Hotel Shangri-La is situated on the corner of Ocean and Arizona avenues, with a pool set in an interior courtyard, protected from any winds coming off the Pacific Ocean. The clean, white exterior of the 71-room facility glistens in the Southern California sunshine.

Tehmina Adaya’s father, Ahmad Adaya, purchased the hotel in 1983. Reading a March 2010 post on her blog, tamieadaya.com, one might imagine the Shangri-La to be the Santa Monica equivalent of the Chateau Marmont.

“I had the privilege of growing up in and around an LA institution that as Hollywood’s ocean front hotel had a long history of being a hideaway for high profile figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton, Tom Cruise, Diane Keaton, Madonna and Sean Penn,” Adaya wrote, not long after a $35-million renovation of the Shangri-La was completed in 2009.

But if the hotel does, in fact, aspire to a degree of exclusivity, some of the evidence presented in court appeared to belie that aim. When Adaya took the stand as a witness on Aug. 1, Turken asked her if a formal policy exists as to who is allowed to use the hotel’s pool. Adaya responded that a sign now stands on the pool deck informing visitors that only guests of the hotel and people who have rented cabanas are entitled to swim in the pool.

Asked whether such a sign was posted on the day of the FIDF event, however, Adaya responded, “I’m not sure.”

Attorneys defending Adaya and the Hotel Shangri-La maintained throughout the trial that the FIDF group had not made a formal arrangement with the hotel to hold its party there, and therefore the hotel and Adaya were justified in their actions.

Yet in cross-examination on the witness stand, Adaya retreated from some of her previous allegations about the plaintiffs. Adaya acknowledged that, contrary to the report prepared by the hotel’s head of security, the FIDF group was not behaving in a raucous manner. And when Turken asked Adaya about a lawsuit she had filed against his clients, in which she alleged that they had posted libelous and defamatory comments on various Web sites about her hotel following the ill-fated event, the hotel owner admitted that she had no evidence that it was Turken’s clients who posted the comments.

“But their friends did,” Adaya said.

Whether it was Adaya’s own apparent uncertainty about the Shangri-La’s policies — including those governing the relationship between the hotel and the separate company that in 2010 was running the hotel’s food and beverage concessions — that impacted the jury’s verdict, it is impossible to say. At the close of the trial, before jury deliberations, Adaya declined to speak to this reporter. Adaya also was not present in court when the verdict was announced, nor, despite a request by the court, did she appear to hear the additional penalties read on the following day. Follow-up requests for an interview with Adaya for this article, submitted to her representatives, were declined.

A number of members of the hotel staff were present in the courtroom representing her, accompanied by a recently hired communications counselor with a specialty in crisis communications. They spoke in her defense, saying she intends to appeal the ruling.

Ellen Adelman, chief business development officer at the Shangri-La for the past two years, said she had spoken to Adaya that morning, who, Adelman said, was “disappointed” with the verdict.

“I’ve worked for Tehmina Adaya for over two years, and I have always received the utmost respect from her,” Adelman, who is Jewish, said. Adelman described her boss as one of the “most open people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” and said that the hotel employs staff from “over 12 countries” and welcomed guests from “over 21 different countries” in July.

Standing next to Adelman was Miles Lozano, the hotel’s director of public relations and marketing. Lozano, too, is Jewish, a fact he also made sure to note in a conversation during the morning recess.

“I went to Crossroads School with [Adaya’s] children, her children attended my bar mitzvah,” said Lozano, who declined to state his age but appeared young enough that his bar mitzvah might not be such a distant memory. “I’ve always known Tehmina Adaya to be amazingly open-minded as far as religion or anything like that.”

As for the plans to appeal the ruling, Adelman said that Adaya “firmly believes in the judicial system, and she will appeal this.” Defense attorney Philip Black, meanwhile, wrote in an e-mail to this reporter on the day punitive damages were assessed that he was “mystified, perplexed and extremely disappointed in the jury.”

“Appeal expected,” Black added.

Nazi guard may be tried in Germany


Prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Weiden think they have a good chance of bringing an 87-year-old former Auschwitz guard to trial.

An investigation of the man — whose name has not yet been released by the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes — shows that he volunteered for the Waffen SS in 1942 and was trained as a guard, according to the German news agency dpa. 

The guard worked at the arrivals ramp and in a guard tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he has been accused of contributing “significantly” to the murder of at least 344,000 people in the gas chambers in 1944. According to the report, most of the victims were Jews from Hungary.

The man reportedly has lived for decades abroad, but now is a registered resident of a community in the Neustadt / Waldnaab district, which is why the court of Weiden has been chosen for a trial. Permanent residents of Germany are required to register with local police.

Kurt Schrimm, head of the central investigation office, told the Oberfalz.net online newspaper that the case was a direct result of the verdict against former concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk, who died in March after being convicted as an accessory to murder of nearly 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. He was sentenced to five years in prison but the case was on appeal when he died.

Schrimm said the Demjanjuk case “triggered a shift in the interpretation of the law,” expressly allowing courts to go after war criminals who enabled others to commit murder. Since then, the investigative body has aggressively pursued similar cases, starting with those that look most promising, he told Oberfalz.net.

Hotel Shangri-La trial raises specter of anti-Semitism


Is the word “Jew” offensive? What about “f—-ing Jew”?

That rather provocative question was posed on July 27 by Philip Black, one of the attorneys defending the Muslim owner of the Hotel Shangri-La, a boutique hotel in Santa Monica, against a discrimination lawsuit brought by more than a dozen members of a local pro-Israel group, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Young Leadership Division in Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs, 18 Jewish Angelenos in or around their 30s, say that Tehmina Adaya, the Pakistani-born, L.A.-bred businesswoman who is part owner of the Shangri-La, discriminated against them when she allegedly shut down a pool party they were holding at the hotel in July 2010.

The jury trial, which began with opening statements on July 26 and is expected to last for two weeks, may hinge on what hotel employees knew about the pool party in advance and whether any had the authority to reserve the space by the patio for the freelance promoter who staged the event for the FIDF group.

But because part of what underlies the accusations against Adaya is that she allegedly told one of her employees on that Sunday two years ago that she did not “want any Jews in the pool” and that she “wanted those f—-ing people gone,” the trial itself is raising some big — and at times difficult — questions about Jews and anti-Semitism.

As might be expected, some of the exchanges grew heated on the first day of witness testimony. Defense attorney Black, during his cross-examination of plaintiff Ari Ryan on July 27, tried to illustrate for the jury that calling someone a Jew doesn’t make one an anti-Semite.

“Sir,” Black said, “you are a Jew.”

“Yes, sir,” Ryan, one of the co-founders of the FIDF young leadership group, replied. “Born and raised.”

“And that, sir, in and of itself, is not offensive,” Black said.

“It can be,” Ryan said, adding that it depended on the context and tone in which the word “Jew” was said.

“But ‘f—-ing Jew’ offends you.”

“Of course,” Ryan said.

Black immediately restated for the court that only one person — Nathan Codrey, who was, in July 2010, the assistant food and beverage director at the Shangri-La — is alleged to have heard his client say anything about the “Jews.” But Black’s intention seemed to be to illustrate for the jury that even if Adaya did say the word “Jews,” her utterance might not necessarily have been anti-Semitic.

That’s just one of many “Jewish” questions this case has touched on so far. In his cross-examination, Black also probed Ryan as to whether the FIDF — which supports all members of the Israel Defense Forces, including its non-Jewish soldiers — could be considered a “Jewish” group.

Nicholas Morrison, another plaintiff who began his testimony near the end of the day on July 27, was one of two members of the FIDF group in charge of planning events in 2010. Morrison told the court that in his one meeting with the member of the hotel staff responsible for booking events on the property, the conversation covered the basics — like towels and cabanas — but also the mission of the FIDF as a whole.

“I told her that our organization provide[s] aid to Israeli soldiers,” Morrison said, “that we are not buying bullets, not buying flak jackets.”

The defense is presenting Adaya’s actions in 2010 as those of a hotel owner with the right to restrict the use of its pool to registered guests and to those particular events whose organizers pay a site fee to the hotel. The FIDF group, which organized the event through an independent event promoter, did not pay a site fee to the Shangri-La.

“This was not a case of discrimination,” defense attorney John S. Levitt told the jury in his opening statement on July 26. While members of the FIDF’s Young Leadership division thought that they had arranged for their event to take place at the Shangri-La pool, Levitt said, no agreement had been made with the hotel’s management.

In Levitt’s words, the promoter responsible for that Sunday’s event — Scott Paletz, who is one of the plaintiffs in the case — had “sold [the FIDF members] a bill of goods.”

The Shangri-La pool has hosted at least one Jewish event in the recent past, a poolside party thrown by the Guardians of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging in August 2009. 

But dismissing the charges of discrimination may not be so simple. The story the FIDF group’s members tell is one that has unmistakable undertones that hark back to some of the darkest chapters of Jewish history.

In his testimony, Ryan described watching the event’s attendees, who had each been issued a blue wristband upon entry, “being tapped on the shoulder and asked by security to leave the pool.”

The outcome of the trial is far from certain, not least because the plaintiffs — who sit clustered into a group of seats in the observers’ section of the courtroom — are young, white, articulate, apparently well off and not visibly injured. During his cross-examination of Ryan — who was described by the Los Angeles Times as “a real estate entrepreneur who lives in Westwood” — defense attorney Black drew special attention to the damages the plaintiffs are seeking. In Ryan’s case, a document introduced into evidence and signed by Ryan said he sought $150,000 in past and future medical expenses — despite his not having undergone any formal physical or psychological treatment.

Other plaintiffs may tell different stories when they take the stand — many are expected to testify at trial. And plaintiffs’ attorney James Turken intended to call Rabbi David Wolpe to testify as an expert witness on July 31.

“Anti-Semitism is bad and people ought not to practice it,” Wolpe wrote in an e-mail to The Journal on July 30, describing what he intended to say when he took the stand the next morning.

But convincing the diverse jury that the case is, in fact, one of anti-Semitic discrimination, may be an uphill battle. Two observers present in the courtroom on July 27, neither of whom was connected with a side in this case, both expressed doubts that the plaintiffs are suffering from emotional distress deserving of compensatory damages of more than $3 million.

Eli, an Israeli-born Santa Monica resident who gave only his first name, said he wasn’t certain that the plaintiffs had been discriminated against at all. 

Indeed Ryan, in his testimony, said that while he was at the Shangri-La, even he couldn’t believe he was being discriminated against.

“It was very surreal. …It took a while to set in because you just don’t expect that to be happening,” Ryan said.

Defense attorney Levitt described his client in his opening statement as someone who does not have “a discriminatory bone in her body.”

A Muslim, Adaya attended Catholic schools in Pakistan; after moving to the United States, she went to what was then called Westlake School for Girls, which had many Jewish students.

From his opening statement, it’s clear Turken also sees a possibility that the jury might doubt that his clients were victims of anti-Semitism.

“Every case has a theme, and this case is no different,” Turken said on the trial’s first day. “And the theme here is: Just because you can’t believe it could happen here doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Trial date set in claims conference fraud


Claims Conference employees charged in a nearly $60 million fraud case will go on trial in January 2013.

The Jan. 14 trial date was set at a pretrial hearing April 25 in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

Prosecutors say a group of employees at the Claims Conference led by Semen Domnitser, the director of the Hardship and Article 2 funds, conspired to defraud Germany of nearly $60 million in funds intended for Holocaust survivors between 1993 and 2009, when the fraud was discovered. The Claims Conference administers Holocaust reparations from Germany.

Domnitser, who was fired from the organization shortly after the fraud was discovered, has pleaded innocent, but some of the 30 people arrested in connection with the fraud have pleaded guilty.

Psychologist: Loughner not yet ready for trial


Jared Loughner is not yet competent to stand trial, according to the court-appointed psychologist in the case of the shooting that wounded Gabrielle Giffords.

Christina Pietz recommended evaluating Loughner’s competence in another four months, the Arizona Daily Star reported Thursday, citing a court order.

Loughner’s first four-month-stay is set to expire Feb. 8, and the judge in the case set a hearing for Monday to consider Pietz’s recommendation, the newspaper said.

“Dr. Pietz does, however, believe that the defendant has made measurable progress toward competency and that his mental state will continue to improve,” the Daily Star quoted U.S. District Judge Larry Burns as saying in his order.

Loughner killed six people and wounded another 13 when he opened fire at a constituent meeting in Tucson, Ariz. Jan. 8 2011 held by Giffords, who was then a congresswoman.

Giffords has recovered partially from her wounds, but this month resigned from Congress to focus fully on her recovery.

Carlos the Jackal, caged but combative, on trial


Urban guerrilla ‘Carlos the Jackal’ smiled and flashed a clenched fist salute on Monday when he went on trial for deadly Paris bomb attacks he is accused of mounting at the height of his “anti-imperialist campaign” in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I am a revolutionary by profession,” Ilich Ramirez Sanchez declared to a special terrorism court of judges, his bluster clearly undiminished by two decades served in French prisons since his 1994 capture in Khartoum by French special forces.

Ramirez is now 62, sports a grey beard and carries a paunch; but over some 30 years, he was the face of militant Marxist struggle, his taste for Havana cigars, Che Guevara-style berets, alcohol and women only adding to his revolutionary allure.

For his small coterie of admirers, some of whom were in court on Monday, he was a romantic anti-imperialist fighter, for others a cold-blooded killer.

Ramirez, dressed in a casual blue jacket and blue sweater, sat in a hardened glass box, guarded by three police officers, occasionally dangling an arm casually through an opening as he watched proceedings.

He faces a second term of life in prison if convicted for four bombings in 1982 and 1983 that killed 11 people and wounded nearly 200. He was sentenced to life in 1997 by a French court for killing two police officers and an informant.

The leftist guerrilla—who exuded the confidence of someone invited, rather than ordered, to attend trial—spoke expansively of his past contacts. He told the judge that Yasser Arafat “himself” had given him Palestinian citizenship.

Ramirez was one of a generation of urban guerrillas who wrought havoc in the 1970s and 1980s with attacks on establishment figures and institutions. In West Germany the Baader-Meinhof group carried out assassinations and in Italy the Red Brigades pressed a campaign of violence.

Ramirez launched attacks around the world, in operations funded by Soviet-bloc and Middle Eastern countries, from Romania to Syria.

Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, his attorney and also his wife, whom he married while in prison, called the trial “political” and said the court had already made up its mind against her client. She has argued that evidence against him was fabricated, dug up from dustyr secret service archives.

Also being judged in absentia at the trial, which runs until mid-December, are three co-defendants, two of whom are fugitives and one of whom is serving a prison sentence in Germany.

SHOW TIME

Prosecutors say the attacks on a Paris street, on a train and in a station were intended by Ramirez to send a signal to authorities who had earlier arrested two of his cohorts.

With a heavy toll of dead and wounded, they yielded a long list of civil parties. It took the presiding judge nearly 20 minutes to read out their names and determine whether they were in court. Only a handful were; some had died in the interim.

“We are hoping Carlos won’t be arrogant and will have at least a minimum of respect for the victims,” Philippe Rouault, a victim whose arm was nearly ripped off in an explosion, told reporters before the proceedings.

“We know he likes to have his show, but we hope that he will be humble and respectful,” he said.

From the LA Times:

With his gray hair, beard and reading glasses and needing a chair for his “bad back,” Ramirez bore little resemblance to the photographs of him with dark hair, Che Guevara beret and sunglasses when he was at the height of his notoriety in the 1970s. While on the run from police in his heyday, he was reported to have had plastic surgery to change his appearance.

However, he had clearly lost none of his ability to provoke, giving a clenched-fist salute to a supporter on the public benches and leaping up to rage, in heavily accented French, about the “racist, Zionist state of Israel.”

The outburst drew a round of applause from a group of young men at the back of the courtroom, prompting a warning against disorder from the president of the court, Olivier Leurent.

Read more at LATimes.com.

Additional reporting by Thierry Leveque

Agriprocessors’ Rubashkin denied new trial



Former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin was denied a new trial by a U.S. appeals court.
 The St. Louis Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 16 that Rubashkin did not prove in his bid for a new trial that the presiding judge in the original case, Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, should have recused herself because she was involved in planning the May 2008 federal immigration raid on Agriprocessors that led to the company’s bankruptcy later that year.

 

Rubashkin, the former head of what once was the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse and packing plant, located in Postville, Iowa, was convicted of financial fraud in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Rubashkin is in a federal prison in New York state.

In the federal raid on the plant, 389 illegal immigrants were arrested, including 31 children.
The appeals court also disagreed with Rubashkin’s contention that the sentence was too long.

A Rubashkin attorney told the Des Moines Register that his client would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
 


Rudolph Kastner gets a new trial


Leave it to the artists and attorneys at Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH) to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day by introducing — or reintroducing — a man once considered to have been a Jewish antihero of World War II.

On the afternoon of May 1, instead of hosting a speaker or screening a film or hosting any of the other programs that usually commemorate Yom HaShoah, Temple Israel’s newly established arts council has invited community members to join the jury at a mock trial that will reconsider the fate of Rudolph Kastner, a Hungarian who helped Jews escape the Nazis but was later accused of being a Nazi collaborator.

The trial will feature a cast of characters played by accomplished actors from television and film, all but one of whom are also members of the synagogue, as well as Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and attorney Bert H. Deixler. Congregant Leslie A. Swain, a judge from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, will preside over the proceedings. Alan Rosenberg, the only non–synagogue member in the cast and a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, will play Kastner.

The synagogue expects a full house for the event, which is being held in a room that seats 450.

Though Kastner is little known today, in Israel in the 1950s he was the object of very public condemnation. In 1955, an Israeli judge declared that he had “sold his soul to the devil.” Two years later, Kastner was assassinated.

Stranger still, Kastner — who will stand accused of treason at TIOH — first became the object of scrutiny and criticism because of actions he took during World War II that might have been, under other circumstances, worthy of praise: Kastner helped a trainload of Jews escape from Nazi-occupied Hungary.

“Between April of 1944 and January of 1945, 480,000 Hungarian Jews were exterminated” by the Nazis and their Hungarian collaborators, said Danny Maseng, the cantor at Temple Israel and one of the driving forces behind “The People vs. Kastner.” Maseng described the Holocaust in Hungary as having been fundamentally different from the genocide of European Jewry in other countries — in no small measure due to the rapidity with which Hungarian Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.

In this context, on June 30, 1944, Kastner managed to get 1,685 Jews on a train heading in a different direction, bound for the neutral haven of Switzerland.

Although collectively, Kastner’s Jews outnumber even those saved by Oskar Schindler, because the passengers on the train were hand-picked by Kastner, because they included many members of his family, because he negotiated for their lives directly with Adolf Eichmann of the SS, and because he did not sound the alarm about the genocidal fate that the Jews of Hungary were then already meeting — for these and other reasons, Kastner was publicly vilified in Israel after the war.

To say that the story is complicated — morally as well as politically — would be an understatement. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘God, is Kastner a good guy or a bad guy?’ ” Doug Segal, the director of “The People vs. Kastner,” said. Like all but one of the people who came to be involved in the project, Segal, who has directed for TV and for the temple’s day school’s stage, had never heard of Kastner before the project was proposed.

The “good guy or bad guy” question that Segal faced is the very fundamental one first proposed by writer Jonathan Maseng — son of cantor Danny Maseng — who initially suggested that the Kastner case might make for an interesting mock trial. It is also the question that Jonathan Maseng hopes the show’s audience-cum-jury will struggle with.

“What we’re trying to get people to do is put themselves in his position,” Jonathan Maseng said.

An aspiring screenwriter, Jonathan Maseng, 26, works as a religious schoolteacher at Temple Israel and as a legal assistant, and regularly contributes articles to The Jewish Journal. He first came across the Kastner story by chance while reading about the early history of the State of Israel. When he mentioned it to his 60-year-old father, a native of Tel Aviv, Danny Maseng immediately remembered the case.

“I remember my parents telling me that it was a dark time in the history of our country,” Danny Maseng said, remembering the day Kastner was assassinated. He was 7 years old. Kastner was gunned down just four blocks from his grandparents’ home.

It was only recently that this controversial story began to attract attention in the United States outside academia. The acclaimed documentary “Killing Kasztner: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis” had theatrical runs in Los Angeles and New York last year. NPR and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan called the film one of the 10 best documentaries of 2010.

The film’s maker, Gaylen Ross, believes “Killing Kasztner” is part of a wider effort to explain the political context in Israel that led to Kastner’s condemnation and assassination. “It started to happen in Israel over decades, little by little,” Ross said. Two Kastner plays were produced in the early 1980s on Israeli stages, and an Israeli television series followed in the 1990s. All this is slowly rehabilitating Kastner’s reputation and is assuaging the guilt felt by those Jews he saved from certain death. In Israel, during the years immediately following the war, Ross said, Kastner’s Jews had been made to feel that their salvation had come at the cost of the lives of the rest of Hungarian Jewry.

For that reason, Ross said she is outraged at the idea of putting Kastner on trial again at the synagogue. “Using the political arguments from 1954 to retry a man who was a victim of a murder is insensitive at best and outrageous at worst,” she said in a recent interview.

Ross said she offered the synagogue the chance to screen her film on Yom HaShoah in lieu of the mock trial. It will be screened at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C., this year and was shown on Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in 2009.

“People didn’t argue it,” Ross said of the 2009 screening in Jerusalem. “They didn’t have a trial. There was a new understanding in Israel; there was a new understanding of the scholarship in Israel — and this is happening in America.”

Danny Maseng believes it is important to teach people about Kastner, but that it is even more important to get people to care about his story in the first place. “The Holocaust has been relegated to a heavy region — or worse — for a younger generation,” he said. “It has become history in the worst sense of the word — something dry, something not immediate, something that doesn’t have any relevance to my life today.”

As for Ross, Danny Maseng said she was misinformed about what the event would entail. “She does not know what we’re doing nor does she know how we’re doing it, nor does she appreciate the fact that we’ve done months of preparation and research,” he said.

He also said he’d be happy to screen “Killing Kasztner” after the mock trial.

Ross, for her part, remains unconvinced. “It’s a kangaroo court,” she said, “and it’s very upsetting.”

Nevertheless, Ross is having an indirect impact on the TIOH project. At least one of the actors, Bob Odenkirk, who can be seen on the AMC television series “Breaking Bad,” said that he had seen “Killing Kasztner” and that it would help inform his performance.

At TIOH, Odenkirk will take the witness stand as Malchiel Gruenwald, the amateur journalist who, in 1953, set into motion the events that would result in Kastner’s assassination, when he published a pamphlet accusing Kastner of being a Nazi collaborator.

Because Kastner held a position as an Israeli government spokesman, the government, which was then led by David Ben-Gurion’s left-wing Mapai party, took up his defense and sued Gruenwald for libel. After a two-year trial, the judge not only acquitted Gruenwald, he effectively turned Kastner into the defendant and excoriated him for having dealt with Eichmann.

Today, with the benefit of distance and additional historical scholarship, Kastner no longer seems to Odenkirk and others like the man who “sold his soul to the devil.”

“From our point of view, and from a distance, it’s kind of easy to say he was a hero,” Odenkirk said. “He negotiated and saved 1,600 Jews, so what’s the fight? Why does anybody have anything against him?”

Odenkirk, whose two children attend Temple Israel’s day school and who was recruited to join “The People vs. Kastner” by one of the synagogue’s rabbis, said that looking closer at the materials that he was using to prepare for his role helped him to better understand where Gruenwald and others were coming from.

“For somebody like Gruenwald, whose family died, pretty much all of them,” Odenkirk said, Kastner “just looks like this guy who hung out with Nazis and saved not too many people — and mostly saved people he knew.”

Although all the actors have been given materials to keep their performances in “The People vs. Kastner” fact-based, the actual performance of the mock trial will be improvised. Odenkirk, who got his start in sketch comedy, has a great deal of experience with improv. “I’m not going to be making facts up,” he said. “What I have to do, and what everyone has to do, is present your character, what they care about, their emotional state and their argument.”

Ross’ documentary, Odenkirk said, “lets you into people’s very conflicted feelings about their own government at the time in Israel and Ben-Gurion, feeling that he was more of compromiser than they wanted him to be.”

But, in playing a witness, Odenkirk said his job was to make the jury’s decision as difficult as possible.

“I’m just worried about playing Gruenwald,” Odenkirk said of his character who, more than half a century ago, accused Kastner of having betrayed the Jews of Hungary.

“My goal is to have everyone who hears me agree with me when I’m done — or, at the very least, understand how I can feel that way.”

For more information, visit tioh.org; for reservations, e-mail {encode=”Natalie@tioh.org” title=”Natalie@tioh.org”}, or call (323) 876-8330 ext. 1007.

Cuba announces trial date for Alan Gross


A U.S. government contractor that the State Department says was assisting Cuban Jews will go on trial in Cuba next month.

Alan Gross was charged on Feb. 4 with “Acts against the independence and territorial integrity of the State.” The charge carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence; he could have faced the death penalty according to Cuban law.

U.S. officials will attend the trial, which will likely be in front of a panel of judges, Reuters reported. The trial is expected to last a couple of days.

Cuban authorities detained Gross in late 2009 on his way out of the country, saying he was a spy.

Gross’ family and State Department officials say he was in the country on a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to help the country’s 1,500 Jews communicate with other Jewish communities through the Internet.

The main Jewish groups in Cuba have denied any contact with or knowledge of Gross or the program.

Gross reportedly is being held in a military hospital; he is suffering from health problems and is reported to have lost 90 pounds. 

On Thursday, Gross’ wife, Judy, pleaded with the Cuban government to release her husband on humanitarian grounds. Gross’ daughter, 26, has breast cancer, and his mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Accused Nazi dies before denaturalization trial


A retiree living near Seattle, Wash., accused of committing genocide and other crimes as a Nazi officer during World War II died a month before his denaturalization trial.

Peter Egner, 88, died last week in an assisted-living community in Bellevue, Reuters reported Monday, citing a facility representative who did not give her name.

Egner, a Yugoslavia native, is accused of joining in April 1941 the Nazi-controlled Security Police and Security Service in German-occupied Belgrade, a Nazi mobile killing unit that participated in the mass murder of more than 17,000 Serbian civilians during World War II.

Egner came to the United States in 1960 and became a citizen six years later.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit in 2008 attempting to strip Egner of his citizenship, saying he lied about his Nazi past on his citizenship application.

Egner has admitted volunteering to serve in the Security Police and Security Service as well as guarding prisoners as they were being transferred to concentration camps. He also admitted serving as an interpreter during interrogations of political prisoners that sometimes involved severe torture. Prisoners often were executed following their interrogations.

Serbia’s justice minister on Nov. 26 formally requested Egner’s extradition to stand trial in Serbia.

Meanwhile, on Monday, an immigration judge in Detroit ordered the deportation of John Kalymon of Troy, Mich., who is accused of committing violent acts against Jews during World War II as a member of the Nazi-sponsored Ukrainian Auxiliary Police in Nazi-occupied Lvov.

Kalymon, who became a U.S. citizen in 1955 after emigrating from Germany six years earlier, had his citizenship revoked in March 2007. A federal judge concluded that Kalymon took part in wartime violence against Jews and lied about it to immigration authorities.

Kalymon, whose former first name was Iwan, denies the accusations.

Israeli soldiers go on trial


Two Israeli soldiers are on trial for allegedly using a Palestinian boy as a human shield during the Gaza war.

The staff sergeants went on trial Wednesday in a military court. Both have professed their innocence.

One of the accused said in an interview with Army Radio that the two soldiers were being offered as scapegoats to the international community, which has been critical of Operation Cast Lead.

The soldiers are accused of ordering a 9-year-old boy to open bags that they suspected of being booby-trapped in a Gaza City neighborhood.

Judge declares mistrial in Seattle Jewish Federation shooting case


SEATTLE (JTA)—A judge declared a mistrial in the case of the gunman who shot up the offices of this city’s Jewish federation.

The King County prosecutor vowed to retry Naveed Haq, 32, who claimed he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury said it could not agree on all but one of the 15 counts of murder and attempted murder against Haq, whose July 2006 shooting spree at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle left one woman dead and seriously injured five.

Jurors deliberated for eight days after a six-week trial that featured testimony from 32 prosecution witnesses and 16 for the defense.

“Substantial justice cannot be done,” Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas told a packed Seattle courtroom Wednesday. “There is no reasonable probability of the jury reaching an agreement. I declare a mistrial.”

Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg said he hopes to try the case again in six months. A hearing to select a new trial date is scheduled for June 12.

In a news conference following the mistrial announcement, Satterberg told reporters that the mistrial would not seriously harm the prosecution’s core arguments and emphasized his continued commitment to the case.

“The attack by Naveed Haq upon the women inside the offices of the Jewish federation remains one of the most serious crimes ever committed in this city,” Satterberg said.

Haq kidnapped a 14-year-old girl to gain entrance into the building and began shooting as he reached the federation’s second-floor reception area.

He spewed anti-Israel and anti-Jewish slurs during the attack while decrying the Iraq war and Israel’s 2006 conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Haq made similar comments on a video shown in the courtroom prior to the trial’s start.

According to a court memorandum, Haq told a 911 operator during his shooting rampage, “I’m not upset at the people, I’m upset at your foreign policy. These are Jews. I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.”

A self-proclaimed Muslim of Pakistani ancestry, Haq had driven 227 miles from his home in eastern Washington to Seattle, stopping to test-fire his two handguns along the way. Two weeks before the shooting he had researched Jewish organizations via the Internet to choose his target. He went on Mapquest for directions to the building.

After the shooting, Haq was coaxed into speaking with 911 operators by a pregnant Dayna Klein, who covered her abdomen with her arm to protect her unborn child. The wound left her without use of the arm.

“He said nothing,” Klein testified during the trial. “He shot at his first opportunity. He was aiming for me and I put my arm in front of my abdomen.”

Haq surrendered to police without further incident and complied with directions from police while in custody, officers testified in court.

Federation CEO Richard Fruchter expressed disappointment at the jury’s inability to reach a verdict on all but one of the 15 counts against Haq.

“We are extremely disappointed in this hung jury,” Fruchter said. “He made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements, but somehow this was not enough.”

During deliberations, the six men and six women of the jury told the judge they did not understand the legal meaning of concepts like “right from wrong” and whether Haq knew the “nature and quality” of his acts.

Prosecution witness Robert Wheeler defined the terms for the jury under direct questioning from prosecutor Donald Raz.

The terms “nature and quality,” testified Wheeler, “is when he acts with an objective or purpose to accomplish a result that constitutes a crime.”

To determine whether Haq understood right and wrong, Wheeler said one must ask, “Was he capable of understanding the consequences of his actions? Can they perceive risks to themselves and to others? Did he know where he was, who he was, and what he was doing at the time? Could he follow directions?”

Jurors made five requests to Kallas during their deliberations, but none were to clarify language or for a review of the 20-minute surveillance video from security cameras at the Jewish federation recorded the afternoon of the shooting.

Haq initially was charged with nine felonies, including aggravated first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder, all with the use of a firearm. Other charges included kidnapping and burglary for taking Kelsey Burkum hostage and unlawfully entering the federation building.

Haq also was charged with malicious harassment under the state’s hate crimes law.

Jurors found Haq not guilty on first-degree attempted murder for the shooting of Carol Goldman. The charge is expected to be lowered to second-degree attempted murder for the next trial.

According to doctors who treated him for a decade, Haq suffers from Bipolar 1 disorder with psychotic features including schizoaffective disorder, delusions, hallucinations and depression.

Once a promising student at the University of Pennsylvania—he has degrees in biology and electrical engineering – Haq became withdrawn and moody shortly after enrolling in graduate school, according to the medical experts.

The defense’s central medical expert, Dr. James Missett, a Yale University-trained addiction and forensic psychiatrist, told the court that Haq was and is severely mentally ill, and was exhibiting manic and aggressive behaviors as well as deep depression on the day of the shootings.

However, two counselors who evaluated Haq three days before the shootings testified that he was having no side effects from his medications and seemed to be feeling well. They said he was even looking for work.

Haq was on six prescription drugs, including lithium, for his mental disorders. Defense attorneys had hoped to convince the jury that the combination was toxic and that a change in medications before the shootings had induced side effects that spurred his rampage.

Two shooting victims, Goldman and Cheryl Stumbo, who were in court nearly every day voiced disappointment and shock at the verdict. Still, they said they would be back when the next trial starts.

“I’m ashamed that I live in a society where the seriously and chronically mentally ill can legally purchase handguns,” Stumbo said after the mistrial. “How can it not be obvious to our elected representatives that the right to live and work in a safe environment trumps the right of dangerous people to buy and use deadly weapons?”

Subpoenas in AIPAC trial could reveal U.S. secrets


Subpoenas issued to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and other top Bush administration officials could end up shedding unprecedented light on the Bush administration’s inner workings and the government’s dealings with the pro-Israel lobby.

In an unusually broad ruling Nov. 2 in the classified information case against two ex-officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a federal judge allowed the defense to subpoena 15 administration officials over the objections of the Bush administration.

In addition to Rice and Hadley, the list also includes Elliot Abrams, deputy national security adviser who is also the administration’s top policy official on the Middle East; Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state; Paul Wolfowitz, former deputy secretary of defense, and Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Va., not only ruled as relevant government conversations with the two defendants — Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign policy boss, and Keith Weissman, his deputy and the lobby’s top Iran analyst — but also discussions that involved only U.S. officials.

In addition, Ellis said the conversations between officials and other AIPAC representatives were in play. Such conversations are bound to reveal how AIPAC has been used as an instrument by one faction in government to influence or head off another, especially in the fight over how hard a line to take against Iran.

Defense lawyers were elated with the ruling.

“For over two years we have been explaining that our clients’ conduct was lawful and completely consistent with how the U.S. government dealt with AIPAC and other foreign policy groups,” said Rosen’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, in a statement issued also on behalf of Weissman’s lawyer, John Nassikas.

The attorneys each work at top-flight Washington firms: Lowell at McDermott, Will and Emery and Nassikas at Arent Fox.

“We are gratified that the judge has agreed that the defense has the right to prove these points by calling the secretary of state and all of these other government officials as our witnesses,” Lowell said. “We look forward to the trial of this case.”

The government may still oppose the subpoenas, but Ellis warned that this could endanger its case.

“The government’s refusal to comply with a subpoena in these circumstances may result in dismissal or a lesser sanction,” the judge wrote.

Rosen and Weissman were charged under a never-used statute in the 1917 Espionage Act that criminalizes the receipt and dissemination of classified information by civilians. Free-speech advocates, press groups and lobbyists are closely watching the case.

The defendants have long argued that conversations outlined in the August 2005 indictment were routine and part of the government’s unofficial practice of using the pro-Israel lobby to convey information to Israel, the press, other nations or even other branches of government.

Ellis in his ruling agreed that the defense was attempting to make a valid argument.

“Defendants are entitled to show that, to them, there was simply no difference between the meetings for which they are not charged and those for which they are charged,” Ellis wrote, “and that they believed that the meetings charged in the indictment were simply further examples of the government’s use of AIPAC as a diplomatic back channel.”

Another five officials were left off the list for reasons Ellis kept classified. Defense sources said it was not clear if Ellis had ruled them out absolutely and that defense lawyers would seek his guidance on the matter.

The government did not raise objections to the four subpoenas for officials who were identified in the indictment. One of those officials, Lawrence Franklin, an Iran analyst at the Pentagon, has pleaded guilty to leaking classified information and was sentenced to more than 12 years; he has not begun his sentence. Another, David Satterfield, is now Rice’s top adviser on Iraq issues.

The core of the indictment centers on a sting operation in the summer of 2004, when Franklin leaked to Weissman false information purporting that Iranian forces planned to kill Israeli agents in Kurdistan. Rosen and Weissman allegedly relayed the information to Israeli diplomats and journalists, and tried to pass it on to Abrams.

Ellis dismissed out of hand all of the prosecution’s objections, including whether such subpoenas would interfere with the business of government.

“Inconvenience to public officials in the performance of their official duties is not a basis for infringing a defendant’s Sixth Amendment compulsory process rights,” the judge wrote.

More broadly, Ellis dismissed government contentions that including conversations among government officials or between government officials and other AIPAC staffers amounted to hearsay.

“Such meetings may nonetheless have affected defendants’ states of mind if the contents of those meetings were later communicated to them by other AIPAC employers,” Ellis wrote, allowing all relevant conversations between any AIPAC staffer and a government official to be included.

Ellis added: “Conversations between two or more government officials, even if not communicated to defendants, might be relevant to show that particular government officials authorized the disclosure of nonpublic information to defendants or to AIPAC,” he wrote. “For instance, if defendants can demonstrate that a high-ranking government official authorized his subordinate to disclose NDI,” or national defense information, “to AIPAC employees, such an authorization would be exculpatory to defendants.”

Under this allowance, defense lawyers are free to probe Defense Department officials, including Wolfowitz, who might have sought to head off the State Department’s Iran policy with selective leaks through AIPAC. Wolfowitz and others at the Pentagon toed a considerably harder line on Iran than those at the State Department and would have used AIPAC — also hard-line in how to deal with the Islamic republic — in lobbying Congress and shaping public opinion.

“We are aware of the order authorizing the potential issuance of subpoenas in the Rosen and Weissman case should the case go to trial,” said Gordon Johndroe, the spokesman for Hadley and Abrams. “It is our understanding that no subpoenas have been issued at this time. We cannot comment further because this is an ongoing criminal prosecution.”

AIPAC and the State Department refused comment.

Feds Indict Suspect in Murder of JDL’s Krugel


Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.

“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix,
Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.

Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other.
“My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”

At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.

Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.

He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.

Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.

A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.

His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets.
Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.

Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.

Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.

“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”

The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”

Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.

“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

Franklin Sentencing Seen As Ominous


It was surprising enough that the judge quadrupled the prosecution’s recommended sentence for Lawrence Franklin, from three years to more than 12.

But the true bombshell at the sentencing on Jan. 20 of the former Pentagon analyst, who is at the center of the case involving pro-Israel lobbyists and classified information, came as lawyers were shutting their briefcases.

That’s when U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told the courtroom in Alexandria, Va., that he believed civilians are just as liable as government employees under laws governing the dissemination of classified information.

“Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law,” Ellis said. “That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever.”

It was difficult to assess whether Ellis was thinking out loud or was pronouncing his judicial philosophy. The judge earned a reputation as a voluble off-the-cuff philosopher when he adjudicated the case of John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban.”

But if those are Ellis’ jury instructions in April, when two former staffers of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) go on trial, the implications could have major consequences — not just for Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but for how Americans consider national security questions.

Franklin, a mid-level Iran analyst at the Pentagon, admitted to leaking information to Rosen and Weissman in 2003 because he wanted his concerns about the Iranian threat to reach the White House.

His Pentagon colleagues were focused on Iraq, and Franklin believed AIPAC could get his theories a hearing at the White House’s National Security Council. He also leaked information to Naor Gilon, the former chief political officer at the Israeli Embassy.

By the summer of 2004, government agents co-opted Franklin into setting up Rosen and Weissman. He allegedly leaked classified information to Weissman about purported Iranian plans to kill Israeli and American agents in northern Iraq.

Weissman and Rosen allegedly relayed that information to AIPAC colleagues, the media and Gilon. AIPAC fired the two men in March 2005.

Defense lawyers for Rosen and Weissman have joined a free speech watchdog in casting the case as a major First Amendment battle.

“The implications of this prosecution to news gatherers and others who work in First Amendment cases cannot be overstated,” lawyers for the former AIPAC staffers wrote in a brief earlier this month supporting an application from the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press to file an amicus brief.

The case is believed to be the first in U.S. history to apply a World War I-era statute that criminalizes the dissemination of classified information by U.S. civilians.

Franklin pleaded guilty to a similar statute barring government employees from leaking classified information. That statute rarely has been prosecuted; before Franklin, the last successful prosecution experts can recall was in the 1980s.

 

Eviction of Jew and Non-Jew Going to Trial


A federal court trial, alleging that the Orthodox Jewish owners of a Pico-Robertson building evicted a tenant because he shared his apartment with a non-Jew, is scheduled to open in Los Angeles next week.

The suit by Lawrence “Chaim” Stein alleges that he was evicted in 2004 by the board of Torat Hayim, a nonprofit that is best known for its Pico-Robertson school and synagogue, but that also manages a handful of apartments.

Stein’s central piece of evidence in the suit is a voice mail left on his phone answering machine by Michael Braum, one of the suit’s defendants and the pro bono manager of the apartment in the 8800 block of Alcott Street.

“I can’t believe you rented to a goy,” says the voice on the tape, which Braum has acknowledged as his in a deposition.

“Two days after that, we get an eviction notice,” Stein said.

Rejecting tenants based on religion is illegal. Braum noted in an interview that Torah Hayim’s tenants include non-Jews. He insisted that the issue was not religion, but that Stein unilaterally changed terms of the lease.

The eviction was later overturned in court. However, by that time, Stein had found another apartment, and his old quarters had been rented to someone else.

In the federal suit, Stein is seeking compensatory damages “in an amount according to proof,” and punitive damages up to three times the amount of actual damages.

Stein; his wife, Balan, and their four children, were living in a two-bedroom unit when Torat Hayim bought the building in 2000. According to Braum’s deposition, Torat Hayim acquired the building primarily as income property and secondarily to provide housing for the needy.

The rental income helps support Torat Hayim’s synagogue, private school and other services to the Iranian Jewish community.

Stein, a computer analyst, said he decided to let a non-Jewish friend, Marc Hutson-Montroy, move in with him after Stein’s purchase of a house in Las Vegas depleted his income. According to Stein’s attorneys, Braum showed up at the property on Sept. 15, 2003, and found Hutson-Montroy.

Braum acknowledged in the deposition that he asked Hutson-Montroy if he was Jewish. Braum told The Journal that he couldn’t believe that an Orthodox Jew would room with a non-Jew.

“If he brings in one McDonald’s sandwich, Stein cannot eat there anymore,” Braum said, referring to kosher dietary restrictions.

On Sept. 25, 2003, Braum’s message on Stein’s answering machine referred to Hutson-Montroy three times as a “goy.”

“Are you there? Are you moved out? Why? What kind of benefit do you get in giving this apartment to a goy?” Braum asked in the message, which Stein saved.

Days later, the eviction notice arrived.

Braum maintained in the interview that his use of the word “goy” was not meant as an insult.

It was his understanding, he said, that Stein was living there with his wife and children.

“Nobody had called. Nobody gave me the key,” Braum said.

It’s standard practice, he noted, for apartment owners to forbid subleases and to require new tenants to fill out an application form.

The suit is not the first run-in between Stein and Torat Hayim. Another dispute was settled by a rabbinical court in 2002.

In the 2002 case, Braum blamed a mold problem in the apartment on the overflow of a washer-dryer draining into a toilet. Stein blamed it on poor building maintenance.

That matter was settled in a rabbinical court, which ordered a $3,000 payment to Stein for having to “live in uninhabitable conditions” for three months, Stein said.

 

Court Case Could Be Key to Trying Arafat


When Israeli authorities chose to put Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti on trial in a criminal court, rather than a military court, prosecutors may have set the stage for an even bigger prize: Yasser Arafat.

That possibility was given a boost last week with Barghouti’s conviction on five counts of murder for Israelis killed in three separate shooting ambushes conducted by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in 2001 and 2002.

Barghouti, the West Bank leader of Fatah, the political faction of the Palestinian Authority president, was acquitted on 21 other counts of murder for lack of evidence.

Both outcomes bolstered the argument for putting Palestinian terrorists on trial in regular Israeli courts, rather than in military courts, where the standards of evidence are not as strict. Barghouti’s conviction shows that there is sufficient evidence to put terrorists behind bars using standard criminal procedures, and his acquittal on the other counts lends legitimacy to the argument that even Palestinian terrorists will get fair trials in Israel.

Though the trial served as a legal extension of the Israeli-Palestinian battleground, Israelis insisted that the trial was fair, and that Israeli judges do not function as rubber stamps for Israel’s security establishment — as evidenced by Barghouti’s acquittal on most of the charges.

The judges said Barghouti could be convicted only in cases where it was proven that he had prior knowledge of imminent terrorist attacks and that he approved the attacks. The prosecution sought a ruling that would have held the head of a terrorist organization personally responsible for all attacks carried out by organization members.

That made a future conviction of Arafat more difficult, because prosecutors could win a conviction only if they can prove Arafat is directly responsibility for specific attacks.

During the Barghouti trial, the Israeli judges found Barghouti had ordered his men to go forward with attacks or suspend them, "according to instructions he had received from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat" — one sign that an Arafat conviction is not an impossibility.

Despite his conviction, Barghouti, 44, still is considered one of the prime candidates to succeed Arafat. Palestinians regard Barghouti as a national hero, and until the start of the intifada, Israel considered him a relative moderate who might make a good successor to Arafat. Until the late 1990s, Barghouti was considered one of the strongest Palestinian advocates for negotiations with Israel.

After 1993, he became a strong backer of the Oslo accords. He continued to rise in the Palestinian rank, and by the start of the second intifada in late 2000, Barghouti was Fatah’s leader in the West Bank. Disenchanted with the deadlock in peace negotiations, Barghouti, who also was responsible for Fatah’s militant offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, began giving approval to attacks against Israelis.

The Israeli court ruled that it was through the Al Aqsa Brigade that Barghouti issued orders to kill. He was brought to trial after Israeli commandos captured him in Ramallah two years ago. He was the most senior Palestinian figure ever to face trial in Israel.

He tried to turn the proceedings into a political trial. As a member of the Palestinian legislative council, he said, he refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli court’s right to try him.

"The intifada will continue as long as the occupation," he told the court upon his conviction, speaking at times in fluent Hebrew.

The Palestinian Authority denounced the trial and demanded Barghouti’s immediate release.

With Arafat’s foundering popularity and the rising power of Hamas, a figure like Barghouti may make the perfect candidate for Palestinian leadership — both in Israel’s view and that of the Palestinians.

The conviction helps ensure that Barghouti is not suspected of having a hidden agenda of collaboration with Israel. That makes him a more favorable candidate for leadership than Jibril Rajoub, Arafat’s national security adviser, and Mohammad Dahlan, former minister of internal security, both of whom at times have been slammed as too close to the Israelis.

The Tel Aviv court is due to sentence Barghouti on June 6.

Terrorist Leader


Mohammed Abu Abbas, the terrorist whose botched ocean-liner hijacking in 1985 ended in the murder of an elderly American Jew and set back the Palestinian cause, has died in American custody.

His death, confirmed Tuesday by a U.S. official in Washington, buried the opportunity to put Abbas on trial as an example of bringing to justice those who use terrorism as a political tool.

Whatever testimony Abbas gave his captors about the role of Palestinian terrorist groups in propping up Saddam Hussein’s regime remains shrouded in secrecy for now.

Abbas was said to have died of natural causes in Iraq, where he has been held since his capture there last April. He was 55 and journalists who had encountered him in Baghdad prior to the American invasion said he appeared to be in poor health.

Various governments, including those of the United States, Italy and Israel, over the years had sought to try Abbas for his role in masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, but no one yearned for justice more than Leon Klinghoffer’s family.

Four terrorists belonging to Abbas’ Palestinian Liberation Front hijacked the Italian-owned cruise ship off the Egyptian coast. The hijackers shot the wheelchair-bound Klinghoffer, 69, in the head and chest as his wife Marilyn watched. Then they dumped his body overboard.

Klinghoffer’s family had pressed U.S. occupation authorities to extradite Abbas to U.S. soil to be tried for their father’s murder.

"Our family was shocked to learn of the death of Abu Abbas," Klinghoffer’s daughters, Ilsa and Lisa, said in a statement released through the Anti-Defamation League. "We have been relentless in our efforts to ensure that Abbas be captured and brought to the U.S. to stand trial for our father’s murder and, hopefully, to be convicted and to receive the maximum sentence under our law."

"Our hopes were raised last year when he was captured in Iraq by U.S. troops and arrested," the statement said. "Now, with his death, justice will be denied. The one consolation for us is that Abu Abbas died in captivity, not as a free man."

Italy, which tried and convicted Abbas in absentia in 1986 for hijacking the ship, also had sought Abbas’ extradition.

Abbas’ main legacy to the Palestinians was as a bungler; it was never clear why exactly his faction split from the PLO.

He planned the Achille Lauro hijacking off Egyptian waters to secure the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners. In the end, however, his negotiations with Egyptian authorities secured only the safe passage of the four hijackers to Tunisia.

Klinghoffer’s vicious murder brought notoriety to the Palestinian cause. Abbas didn’t help matters when he told reporters that the wheelchair-bound Klinghoffer, an American Jew, somehow had "provoked" his tormentors.

Even though the Palestinian Liberation Front was marginal to the PLO, the hijacking helped further isolate PLO chief Yasser Arafat in the West.

European and Arab leaders began searching for a credible Palestinian alternative, and attacks such as the one on the Achille Lauro led King Hussein of Jordan to reconsider his reluctance to assume responsibility for the Palestinians.

Arafat and the PLO were rescued from obscurity only through the first intifada, launched in 1987 by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who had little to do with the PLO and nothing to do with Abbas. The popular uprising helped return Arafat to the mainstream, eventually leading to long-sought U.S. recognition of the PLO in 1988.

Yet barely a year later, in 1990, Abbas did it again. At Arafat’s side in Tunis, he sent Palestinian terrorists to raid an Israeli beach south of Ashdod. Israeli commandos intercepted the terrorists before they could inflict any damage — except on the reputation of the Palestinian movement. The United States promptly shut down U.S.-Palestinian dialogue.

Much of Abbas’ time was spent a step ahead of the law.

After the hijacking, U.S. Navy jets forced the EgyptAir flight carrying Abbas and his freed band of terrorists to land in Sicily. Two days later, arguing that Abbas held an Iraqi diplomatic passport, Italian authorities allowed him to go.

After that, Abbas spent time in Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. Since 1994, he made his home in Iraq.

He resurfaced on occasion in Palestinian-run Gaza; as part of the Oslo framework, Israel agreed not to seek his prosecution.

In exchange, Abbas lent qualified support to the emerging peace process, though this mattered little among Palestinians. He had virtually no following in the West Bank.

U.S. Special Forces who raided Abbas’ house near Baghdad last year found Lebanese and Yemeni passports, thousands of dollars, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and some documents. Abbas had fled north but was turned back by the Syrians. His running days were over. U.S. forces captured him in April.

U.S. military officials said at the time that they would interrogate Abbas. No one has said since whether he was of use in tracking down leaders of the Iraqi regime that had sheltered him.

Israel and Saddam Share Long History


Spewing anti-Israel vitriol was one of Saddam Hussein’s
specialties. Of all the leaders in the Arab world, Saddam seemed to have the
most to say against Israel, and he seemed to say it the most often.

Now that he has been captured and faces possible trial,
experts are asking whether the Jewish State will again be his target of choice.

“It will be interesting to see if he chooses to attack Israel
this time, not with Scuds but verbally,” said Martin Kramer, a research fellow
at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center. “Historically, when he found himself up
against the wall, his usual method was to divert and deflect attention to Israel.”

After attacking Israel in the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam became
fond of saying that the Iraqi people represented 22 million missiles against Israel.

It was Saddam’s rhetoric against Israel that “was the main
glue for the Iraqis for developing national Iraqi feelings and remained so
until the very end,” said Ofra Bengio, a professor of Middle East history at Tel
Aviv University. “Hussein wanted to be able to mobilize the population around Israel
as the symbol of evil.”

In 1969, soon after Saddam was appointed Iraq’s vice
president, the government hanged 17 alleged spies, 11 of whom were Jewish, in
what is perceived as Saddam’s first message to Israel that he was a force with
which to be reckoned. The animosity continued in the 1970s, when Israel
provided covert military training and support for Iraqi Kurds in their struggle
against the regime in Baghdad.

The enmity intensified in 1981, with Israel’s air strike on Iraq’s
nuclear facility at Osirak, outside of Baghdad. Israeli officials defended the
strike in the face of worldwide condemnation, arguing that Saddam’s regime was
attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Years later, some of the same voices
that condemned Israel in 1981 said the strike had been the correct move.

Out of all the Iraqi-Israeli recriminations, Saddam was
proudest of Iraq’s firing of Scud missiles at the Jewish state. Casualties and
damage from the attacks were minimal, but the rain of missiles caused Israelis
trauma.

For the first time in the country’s history, Israel did not
strike back when attacked. Instead, the Israelis, many of them survivors of
persecution elsewhere, hid in their sealed rooms with gas masks, while the
government heeded a request by the United States — which was trying to keep
intact its alliance with the Arab world against Saddam — not to counterattack.

Saddam’s power lay in part in his image and forceful
rhetoric, said Bengio, author of “Saddam’s World.” Saddam “managed to put
Israeli society into a panic for more than a decade. There was no basis for
such hysteria, but he managed to do it,” she said.

However, a serious Iraqi military threat never materialized,
she said, because Saddam was on such bad terms with the Syrians and Jordanians
that he was unable to establish a common cause.

Making Israel the focus of his diatribes was politically
profitable for Saddam. Presenting himself as a leader of the Arab world,
Hussein could use anti-Israeli sentiment to rally Arabs behind him.

He was seen by many in the Arab street as a hero for taking
bold stands against Israel and the United States. While other Arab nations
entered into peace talks with Israel and acceded to U.S. pressure, Saddam stood
firm with his belligerent stance.

The Palestinians cheered Saddam for supporting them, even
when the Scuds he fired at Israel endangered them as well. Most recently,
Saddam enraged Israel during the current intifada by sending substantial
monetary rewards to the families of suicide bombers who perpetrated attacks
against Israelis.

There was, however, a brief period in the 1980s, under
Yitzhak Rabin’s government, when high-level contacts took place between Israel
and Iraq. Led by Moshe Shaval, an Iraqi-born Israeli Cabinet minister, the
secret talks aimed at securing minimal relations between the two countries and
permitting return visits to Iraq by Israeli Jews from Iraq. The talks collapsed
shortly after they began. Â

No Decision From Pollard Day in Court


It didn’t result in any decision, but just getting another day in court was a victory of sorts for Jonathan Pollard.

Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1987 for spying for Israel, Pollard for years had tried to get a new hearing, arguing that his former counsel was inept and that the government broke a plea bargain agreement when it convinced the judge at his trial to give him a life sentence.

On Tuesday, Sept. 2, Pollard appeared in U.S. District Court in Washington, the first time he has been seen in public since his sentencing 16 years ago.

A packed courtroom heard Pollard’s pro bono defense attorneys demand what they said was justice for the former Navy analyst, who confessed to passing military secrets to Israel.

Over and over again, attorney Jacques Semmelman argued that Pollard’s original attorney, Richard Hibey, had been guilty of ineffective assistance of counsel, thereby denying Pollard his right to a fair trial. Pollard already has served longer than any other spy similarly convicted. Semmelman repeatedly reminded Judge Thomas Hogan that Hibey, without explanation, never objected to the government’s breach of its written plea agreement not to ask for a life sentence; failed to ask for an evidentiary hearing regarding a last-minute, secret declaration by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger outlining Pollard’s allegedly extensive damage to U.S. interests; and failed to file the routine notice of appeal required within 10 days of the court proceedings.

Hibey has declined to discuss the case. Weinberger has admitted that his sworn declaration, in many ways the basis for Pollard’s life sentence, "was made far bigger than its actual importance."

Hogan did not rule on the request for a reduction of Pollard’s sentence or on his attorneys’ request to be able to see the secret documents.

Wearing green leisure clothes and a beige knit yarmulke, Pollard was brought to the courtroom Tuesday without shackles and took a seat between Semmelman and his lead attorney, Eliot Lauer. His lawyers were backed up by two hired public relations managers, a contingent of rabbis led by former Israeli Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu; Pollard’s wife, Esther; and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.).

Lauer appealed to the judge to allow Pollard’s attorneys access to the secret documents behind the Weinberger declaration, which the government maintains are too secret for defense counsel to examine.

Hogan asked prosecutors several times whether the information from more than a decade and a half ago is "stale" or "no longer has its status" as top secret.

In a conversation with JTA, Weiner said he was the only member of Congress actually to examine the secret documents that have been denied to Pollard’s current attorneys. He said he examined them in 1999 in the presence of security officers in the office of the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee. Weiner declined to characterize the documents or divulge their contents. But based on what he read, he said, he disagrees with both the public and secret portions of the Weinberger declaration.

"No case in American history has been treated so harshly," Weiner said. "[Pollard] should have never been sentenced to life."

That view was seconded by Jewish leaders.

"It’s time for the president to release Pollard on humanitarian grounds," said Seymour Reich, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who was in the courtroom representing the conference’s Pollard committee. "Eighteen years is enough time."

Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, hailed the hearing as "a major achievement" for Pollard’s attorneys.

He added that he saw "great significance in the fact that the judge summoned Pollard up from Butner" — the North Carolina prison where he is being held — "to attend his hearing."

Eliyahu came from Israel for the hearing.

"I came here all the way from Tel Aviv to see justice done for Jonathan Pollard and bring Jonathan back to Jerusalem," he said in an interview.

Eliyahu led a prayer session in the pouring rain outside the courthouse after the hearing.

Asked if he thought Pollard would be released, Eliyahu looked at the sky and said, "Anything can happen."

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ra’anan Gissin, declined to comment on the hearing, but he told The Associated Press that Israel was still working for Pollard’s release.

"We are using all our efforts to get him released,” Gissin said.

Government lawyers said they were under strict orders from the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to comment on Tuesday’s proceedings.

World Briefs


Police: Suspects Financed TerrorIndirectly

There’s no evidence that members of the Islamic Movement arrested this week in Israel used funds to directly finance terror attacks, Israeli police said.

“We do not claim that the money was used to buy explosive belts” for suicide bombers, a police spokeswoman said.

But the movement is suspected of transferring money from abroad to help support families of suicide bombers.

“Without this financial support, Hamas would not be able to carry out terror attacks,” the spokeswoman said. Israel arrested 15 members of the northern branch of the movement on Tuesday.

Court Hears Petition Against ChiefRabbi

Israel’s High Court on Wednesday heard a petition challenging the appointment of the chief Ashkenazi rabbi. The petitioner, a Tel Aviv accountant, cited allegations against Rabbi Yona Metzger, including sexual harassment and forgery. Metzger’s attorneys rejected the allegations as baseless. The accountant also said Metzger is not qualified to serve as a rabbinic court judge because he did not complete the appropriate studies. Israel’s state attorney recommended that the court reject the petition on the grounds that under current law, the appointment of a chief rabbi can be canceled only if the rabbi resigns. The court will publish its decision at a later date.

Crown Heights Conviction

Lemrick Nelson was found guilty of violating the civil rights of yeshiva scholar Yankel Rosenbaum during the 1991 Crown Heights riots. However, the jury in the civil trial found Wednesday that Nelson was not responsible for Rosenbaum’s death. As a result of the conviction, which came a day after the jury said it was deadlocked, Nelson faces up to 10 years in jail.

Man Beaten in Berlin

An Orthodox Jew was beaten up in Berlin. Tuesday’s attack on the 19 year old, who wears a black hat and sports a beard, occurred in the Berlin subway. Three youths made anti-Semitic remarks to the man. They then followed him out of the subway, throwing fruit at him and asking if he is Jewish. They beat him when he refused to answer. The men are believed to be of Arab descent, police said. Earlier this week, a non-Jewish man who was wearing a Star of David also was beaten in Berlin by attackers who mistook him for a Jew.

British Burial Practices Questioned

Britain’s chief rabbi is calling for certain post-mortem procedures to be phased out after it was revealed that a Jewish man was buried without his brain, contrary to Jewish law. Jonathan Sacks made the call after the publication of the Isaacs Report, a three-year government study that reveals that tens of thousands of brains were removed from British corpses without the consent of relatives. The report focused on Cyril Isaacs, who committed suicide in 1987 and whose brain was removed for medical research into mental illness, unbeknownst to his family. He had suffered from depression.

N.J. Pressed to End Poet Laureate Job

A Jewish coalition is calling for the elimination of New Jersey’s poet laureate post. The coalition, which includes Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, U.S. Jewish groups and New Jersey rabbis, wants the position eliminated in order to oust the current holder, Amiri Baraka. Baraka made headlines last year when he read a poem that said Israel was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Harvard Center Investigates Donor

Harvard’s divinity school may return a $2.5 million gift from the president of the United Arab Emirates with ties to a controversial Arab think tank.

The executive director of the Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-up once denounced Jews as the “enemies of all nations.”

In addition, the Web site for the center, which is described as a “fulfillment of the vision” of Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, features a list of speakers including a Holocaust denier and one who alleges that the United States was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

A spokesman for the school said a researcher recently had investigated the ties, but the spokesman declined to discuss the researcher’s findings, according to newspaper reports from Boston.

French Rabbi Scandal Deepens

A member of a Paris synagogue whose rabbi is accused of staging his own stabbing last January wrote a threatening letter to the rabbi shortly after the incident, police believe.

The man, whose identity has not been divulged, was arrested and appeared in court last week, the Le Monde daily reported Monday. Gabriel Farhi, the rabbi of Paris’ Liberal Synagogue, was treated for knife wounds following an alleged stabbing outside his synagogue on Jan. 3. Around two weeks later, he received a threatening letter regretting “that the job had not been completed.”

Anti-Israel Boycott Fails

A British teachers union rejected a motion to boycott Israeli academics. By a 2-1 vote, the Association of University Teachers (AUT) rejected a motion by Sue Blackwell, a pro-Palestinian activist from Birmingham University, for AUT members to “review immediately, with a view to severing, any academic links they may have with official Israeli institutions, including universities.”

Andy Marks, founder of the International Academic Friends of Israel, said, “We are pleased that the AUT came to the right conclusion. However, it concerns us that such a motion ever made it on their agenda.”

Orthodox Group Eyes Liquor Ban

A rabbinical group will consider banning hard liquor in Orthodox congregations. Rabbi Hershel Billet, the president of the Rabbinical Council of America, told the New York Jewish Week that he will propose restricting the use of hard liquor on Shabbat and other religious occasions during the group’s annual convention later this month.

Billet is the rabbi of Young Israel of Woodmere, N.Y., which recently issued its own liquor ban after a teenage member drank too much and got sick at a “Kiddush.”

3 Charged in Tel Aviv Bombing

British police charged three people in connection with the recent deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Zahid Hussain Sharif, 46; Paveen Akthor Sharif, 35; and Tahari Shad Tabassum, 27, all from Derbyshire in England, were charged with failing to disclose information about a terrorist act. Paveen Sharif also was charged with aiding and abetting acts of terrorism overseas.

General Strike Resumes

Israeli public sector workers renewed a general strike Tuesday after negotiations between Treasury and trade union officials on an emergency economic plan broke down. Seaports, trains and government offices were shut down, while schools opened an hour late and hospitals operated on a Sabbath schedule. There also were disruptions at Ben-Gurion Airport, where work stoppages by baggage-handlers Monday prompted the pilot of a Czech airlines flight to take off without boarding outgoing passengers and with the luggage of those who had just disembarked still in the cargo hold.

El Al to Fly on Shabbat?

The privatization of Israel’s national airline could lead to El Al flying on the Sabbath. El Al’s stock will be sold on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange by the end of the month, according to a decision made Tuesday by the Knesset Finance Committee. El Al’s new management would decide whether the airline would fly on Shabbat.

Bush Won’t Party for Israel

President Bush will not attend a gala for Israel later this month in Washington because he never received an invitation, White House officials say. Organizers of the Spirit of Israel Concert had touted the expected appearance of Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the May 19 event. But White House officials told JTA they did not receive an invitation and have a state dinner planned that night with the president of the Philippines.

Condoms for Israel

Student activists in San Diego passed out condoms that read, “Israel: It’s Still Safe to Come.” Activists with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at the University of California at San Diego dispersed the condoms with a pamphlet promoting Israel’s record in protecting the rights of women and gays, in contrast to other countries in the region, the San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage reported May 2. The move is part of UCSD Hillel’s “Got Israel” campaign

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

JDL Trial Set for October


The trial of Jewish Defense League (JDL) leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel on criminal conspiracy charges in the alleged plot to detonate bombs at a mosque and a congressman’s office is scheduled to begin in October. As Rubin and Krugel await their trial in a shared cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center, information has slowly come out about the informant who helped the government build its case since the arrests in December.

At the heart of the case against Rubin and Krugel are hours of tapes recorded by an informant working for the FBI. The tapes have been turned over to defense lawyers but are still being transcribed.

However, Rubin’s attorney, Brian Altman, believes that there is more to the case than the version of events on the tapes. "The government has an agenda," he says, "so they’ve investigated along that agenda. Then they dump it on you and — bam!"

Altman believes the tapes, once they are fully transcribed, will help prove that his client — who was present at only two of the 11 recorded meetings — was convinced to go along with the alleged bomb plot by the informant. Listening to the tapes, says Altman, "there’s a strong suggestion that the government’s informant was critical to this plan: he’s the one who’s very animated."

The informant, Danny Gillis, 23, is a former Navy petty officer who, while in high school, was reportedly a member of a Jewish pride gang in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley. A source close to Gillis says that while he often fought with white supremacist youths while in high school, he has no arrest record.

While serving in the Navy, the source says, Gillis was the JDL’s "No. 1 kid in L.A.," who often threatened or fought with people identified by the JDL as anti-Semites. But Gillis ended his contact with the JDL in early 2001, after his honorable discharge from the Navy. Months before he was allegedly recruited by Rubin and Krugel for the bombings, Gillis had begun taking classes at a community college and working as a bank teller.

According to the source, Gillis turned to the FBI because of the targets chosen, not the violence he was asked to commit. Gillis’ interest in the JDL reportedly stemmed from his hatred of skinheads, especially a racist gang known as the Peckerwoods. The source says that Gillis has Muslim and Arab American friends and believed the JDL went too far in targeting a mosque,"where there could be innocent children." When Gillis learned the JDL wanted him to attack Muslim and Arab American targets, Gillis turned to the FBI and agreed to record their meetings, according to the source.

The FBI paid Gillis "lost salary," an amount equal to what the informant had been making at his bank teller job before becoming an informant. Krugel defense attorney Mark Werksman says he has requested an interview with Gillis, but "I’ve been told that he wouldn’t speak with us." Altman has also been unable to speak with the prosecution’s star witness.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner, who is prosecuting the case, says that Gillis is neither required nor forbidden to speak with Rubin’s or Krugel’s attorneys. "Informants are always protected," Jessner says. "If the informant wishes to speak to the defense, the informant may. Our job is to protect the informant, not to keep the informant from speaking to defense counsel."

Gillis is currently living outside of Los Angeles and plans to "disappear" after the trial, scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

The Trials of Ted Deutsch


Auschwitz survivor Tibor (Ted) Deutsch will never forget the dark day in 1944 that forever shaped his life. Deutsch was only 16 when he and his older brother, Georg, were among the 1,000 Jews assigned to slave labor at a Trzebinia subcamp assigned to the service the venerable German construction company Hochtief.

A Hochtief employee prone to terrorizing the Deutsch brothers with physical violence ended Georg’s life with one final, brutal, unprovoked assault, before his brother’s eyes. Georg was only 18.

"I can still see his face," Deutsch said as he recalled his brother’s murderer. "I still hear his voice. It rings in my ears."

Deutsch, now a 74-year-old retired jewelry manufacturer residing in Studio City, has waged a lawsuit against Hochtief, a company established in 1875 and still thriving in Germany today. Deutsch filed a reply brief with the Court of Appeals on March 13. If he wins the appeal, the case will go to trial.

Unlike many Holocaust reparation class-action lawsuits against banks, insurance companies and countries, the Duetsch case targets a privately owned corporation.

The protracted legal saga began back in 1999, when Deutsch’s longtime companion, Judy, received a book in the mail from friends in Israel: the 1989 volume, "The Auschwitz Chronicles" by Danuta Czech. When Judy opened the book, she stumbled onto something that made her scream: a photo detail of a Holocaust-era Hochtief document listing slave labor employees. On that list were the names of Tibor and Georg Deutsch. Georg had downplayed his age by two years so that he would not be separated from his younger brother. Unfortunately, he paid for this gesture with his life.

The list provided the solid evidence Deutsch needed to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against Hochtief, which recently merged with an American company called Turner Construction. (Deutch filed a lawsuit once previously, but was unsatisfied with his settlement.)

It was while attending services at Congregation Beth Meir of Studio City, that Deutsch met a woman whose brother is Nate Kraut, a Los Angeles-based attorney who is a certified appellate specialist with nearly 20 years of experience.

For Kraut, Deutsch’s story resonated on a personal level for the appellate attorney.

"My father was in Auschwitz," Kraut said, "and a slave laborer as well."

Kraut took on Deutsch’s case because of his "admiration for Ted’s insistence for what was morally right. The challenge for me is to make sure that what’s legally right fits in with what’s morally right. He’s very driven in wanting to expose what Hochtief did to him. These corporations are being allowed to hide. [They say,] ‘Here we’ll toss him some money and no one will know the difference.’"

In the summer of 1999, Hochtief successfully moved the case from state court to federal court, where the federal court judge granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, based on the conclusion that the case presented a "nonjusticable political question."

Initially, the German government and German corporations refused to allow distribution of any of the money until all lawsuits had been dismissed. Hochtief accused the Deutsch lawsuit of holding up the reparations process, but Kraut said that this accusation is false.

"The other side managed to convince the courts that this involved a political question and therefore the court stayed out of it," Kraut said. "But the matter is Deutsch directly filed a claim against Hochtief, a German corporation, not the German government."

Moreover, the District Court’s ruling effectively declared California’s statute on the subject to be unconstitutional.

After the District Court dismissed Deutsch’s case, the German government, bowing to international pressure, was forced to pass the necessary legislation to release compensation funds anyway.

"Part of the silliness," Kraut said, "is that they aren’t denying that this went on. They’re saying that ‘you can’t pursue this. This can’t touch us.’ It is clear that a company like Hochtief will only respond by money. That’s all they understand."

Lawsuits notwithstanding, the rage and sadness over his brother’s death has been balled up inside Deutsch for years. His pain has not only taken a toll on his health — he recently underwent open-heart surgery — but on the emotional health of Judy, his companion of three decades, he said.

"Through the years Ted became narrowed by this," said Judy. "Day and night, he cannot sleep, and we’re at the breaking point. Especially me."

"What they did," Deutsch said, "couldn’t be done 50 years ago, and it can’t be done today. Murder has no statute of limitations."

Milosevic in The Hague


"A triumph for the civilized world." So characterized The New York Times about the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic that started this past week in The Hague.

Certainly there is cause in the international legal community for such triumphalist sentiment. When the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in 1993, few could have possibly foreseen that Milosevic would ever stand trial.

As Richard Dicker, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, put it: "When I was here in 1996, it was derided as the international tribunal for small fry. Tomorrow the biggest fish of them all goes on trial."

Yet in trying the "biggest fish," the tribunal also faces several risks. A first set of concerns involves the nature of the charges and the character of the defendant.

The political thinker Otto Kirchheimer argued that all trials, at least those that are fairly conducted, must be characterized by an "irreducible risk" — the chance that the prosecution will fail to shoulder its burden of proving guilt, and that the accused will consequently be acquitted. In the case of Milosevic’s trial, this risk is not entirely negligible.

Proof that might be persuasive to a historian or neutral observer might run afoul of the court’s rules of evidence. However else one might characterize Milosevic, none gainsay his cunning, and to create a legally compelling case against him will require both a solid prosecutorial strategy and acts of great courage on the part of witnesses called to testify against their former president.

But even if Milosevic should be convicted, the trial could founder in other respects. Spectacular trials of international crimes — such as the Nuremberg, Eichmann and, now, Milosevic trials — are inevitably asked to do more than simply render justice to the accused in a conventional legal sense.

These trials are asked to clarify the historical record and to demonstrate to the world community the sober and grand neutrality of the law. In his self-pitying, yet intelligently prepared, harangues before the tribunal, Milosevic threatens these aims.

The trial promises to be long — lasting for two years, by most estimates — and the court will have to work hard to make sure that Milosevic’s attacks on its jurisdiction and self-serving presentation of history do not end up hijacking the didactic aims of the trial.

A second set of concerns implicates the larger trend of judging international politics by the standards of criminal law. Until Nuremberg, the notion that a statesman could be treated as a criminal in international law was unthinkable.

The act of state doctrine and the principle of sovereign immunity — basic norms of international diplomacy and law — barred foreign courts from subjecting independent states and their representatives to criminal proceedings. This arrangement long left international criminal law something of an oxymoron. A nation found in violation of an international convention could be punished — but only collectively through the kind of reparations disastrously imposed upon Germany following its defeat in World War I.

Nuremberg changed much of this. The charter of the ground-breaking trial of Hermann Göring and other leading Nazi functionaries adopted the radical idea that statesmen could be held personally responsible for the criminal acts of their regime, even acts committed against their own domestic population.

For years, however, Nuremberg’s legacy remained more conceptual than practical. Decades of Cold War struggle cynically cast international law as a partisan tool of geopolitics, to be championed when advantageous and ignored when not. Only with the explosion of regional violence unleashed by the demise of the Cold War’s strategic equipoise has the world community rededicated itself to the enforcement of international criminal law.

The trial of Milosevic stands as the greatest achievement of this redoubled commitment. Unfortunately, some international legal activists have aggressively sought to push the Milosevic precedent in directions that are far from salutary.

In Belgium, a nation that has adopted a remarkably liberal approach to matters of jurisdiction, legal groups have prepared cases against everyone from Ariel Sharon to Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro. And no less a writer than Christopher Hitchens has passionately argued in favor of trying Henry Kissinger as a war criminal.

These agitations, however well-meaning, are to be regretted. For better or worse, the law is not generally concerned with political complexity; it remains oblivious to the nuances of diplomacy and realpolitik and cares only that violators of its norms receive punishment.

Long after emerging as a suspect in international crimes, Milosevic apparently received personal calls from President Bill Clinton, the tenor of which was intimate, and, on the Serb’s part, avuncular. To the legal crusader, this no doubt stands as an odious example of Clinton’s spineless kowtowing to an international thug; to others, however, it signals a politically sensitive gesture to prod a bellicose foreign leader to respect a precarious peace (in this case, the Dayton Accords).

In this regard, of equal importance to the future of international law as the opening of the Milosevic trial was the recent decision (Feb. 14) handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also housed in The Hague, though institutionally autonomous from the Milosevic tribunal. In a case involving an arrest warrant issued by a Belgium magistrate for Aboulay Yerodia Ndombasi, the Congolese foreign minister at the time of the warrant’s issuance, the ICJ concluded that serving statesmen were shielded from criminal prosecution in foreign national courts.

On first blush, this decision seems to contradict the spirit of the Milosevic trial: it appears to defend the very prerogatives of statesmen that have long permitted them to flaunt international law with impunity. But in fact, the decision simply places a necessary corrective on the agitations of overzealous international lawyers, a corrective that points international law in a direction both practical and wise.

The decision, which effectively ends any effort to put Sharon on trial in Belgium, guarantees that international law is not turned into the mouthpiece of global political grievance. By limiting the opportunities to turn the law into an all-purpose tool of political harassment, the ICJ has properly increased the likelihood that international trials will be reserved for the perpetrators of only the most extreme abuses and atrocities. In so doing, it has preserved and enhanced the ultimate efficacy of international justice.

The trial of Milosevic goes forward, but not that of Sharon. And so it should be. To treat Sharon as a Milosevic would not demonstrate that such law binds the strong as well as the weak, the triumphant as well as the conquered. It would simply demonstrate that a fervid breed of legal crusaders had placed diplomacy under the majestic tyranny of the law.

Precautionary Move


Los Angeles police officers have been visiting Jewish institutions, schools and synagogues to urge an extra measure of alertness while a high-profile trial is underway in the downtown federal courthouse.

The defendant in the case is Ahmed Ressam, a 33-year-old Algerian accused of conspiring with other Islamic extremists to bomb Seattle and other U.S. cities during millennium celebrations.

"I want to stress that we know of no plans or threats targeting specific institutions," Deputy Chief of Police David Kalish told The Jewish Journal.

Each of the city’s 18 police control centers has developed an operational plan to contact institutions in its jurisdiction to review security measures, he said.

"Our contacts include airports and transportation hubs, but in this case Jewish institutions are at the top of our list," Kalish said. He added that a considerable number of Jewish places had been contacted, but he did not know how many.

Kalish repeatedly emphasized that there was no cause for panic or undue anxiety but that the police would be remiss if it did not plan for all possible contingencies.

At the least, the police visits allow Jewish institutions to renew their relationships with local officers and review security plans, he said.

In a visit to the offices of The Jewish Journal, an officer asked if any threats had been received, checked on emergency phone contacts, asked how many people were working in the office, and urged that any suspicious individuals and packages be reported to police.

Major Jewish organizations were highly reluctant, perhaps understandably, to have their names linked to any security concerns.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles acknowledged only that a police visit had taken place, as did the Freda Mohr Center of Jewish Family Service. Organizations that normally maintain a high level of security, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said they had not received any police visits.

However, regional ADL Director David Lehrer commented that "the nature of such a trial in Los Angeles should heighten all our sensitivities."

Ressam was arrested Dec. 14, 1999, as he drove a car loaded with high explosives and other bomb material off the ferry from Canada into Washington state.

He is alleged to have trained in camps run by accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and to have conspired to bomb the Space Needle in Seattle and possibly airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The threats were taken seriously enough by Seattle officials to cancel plans for the city’s year 2000 New Year’s Eve festivities.

The trial was transferred from Seattle to Los Angeles due to concern about security in Seattle’s aging courthouse and the likelihood that because of massive publicity about the case, Ressam might not be able to receive a fair trial in the northern city.

Ressam’s trial started March 12 and is expected to last more than three weeks and involve more than 100 witnesses.

The local FBI office has not been notified of any threats and has not issued any heightened security alerts in connection with the trial, according to spokeswoman Laura Bosley.