While more than 100 people protested outside, the trial of 12 residents of Shfaram, seven of whom are charged with attempted murder, began on Monday in Haifa District Court with the reading of the indictment.
The seven men are suspected of beating Eden Natan-Zada, an IDF soldier who had gone AWOL and opened fire on passengers in a bus, killing four Israeli Arabs and wounding 10. The 19-year-old soldier was still in the bus, in police custody, when an angry mob broke into the vehicle and attacked him. Natan-Zada belonged to the extreme Right and was linked to the outlawed Kach Party.
The suspects in the beating are Na'aman Bachus, Arkan Kurjabi, Munir Zakut, Basel Kadri, Basel Khatib, Fadi Nassrallah and Jamil Sfouri.
The other five defendants are Walid Tchimar, Shadi Marzouk, Malek Korbaj, Haitem Kharb and Fadi Sfouri. They are charged with assaulting a policeman in aggravated circumstances and other crimes.
The incident occurred on August 4, 2005. The indictments were filed on June 7, almost four years after the killings.
The demonstrators and other Israeli Arab leaders are demanding that the state withdraw the charges. The trial has become the latest focal point of Israeli Arab allegations of racism and discrimination by the Jewish majority.
One of the demonstrators, Hadash MK Muhammad Barakei, told reporters, "We are demanding that the state close the files immediately. This is a political trial which opened because of right-wing pressure. The same [Attorney-General] Meni Mazuz who closed files dealing with the murder of 13 Arab citizens [during the Galilee rioting in October 2000], opens files against 12 Arab citizens in the context of the murder of four Israeli Arabs by a Jewish terrorist.
"I don't recall that the state prosecution opened an investigation regarding the attack at Beit She'an or the attacks of the tractor drivers [who were killed after they went on the rampage and killed Jewish passersby in Jerusalem]."
Other demonstrators included the head of the northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Raed Salah, and Hassan Assala, whose son, Asil, was one of the Israeli Arabs killed in October 2000.
As he walked into the courtroom, defendant Jamil Sfouri said, "I feel frustrated and angry. I am innocent."
Another suspect, Basel Kadri, said, "That soldier perpetrated a terrorist attack.
Whoever does so deserves to die."
Meanwhile, the judge, Ron Shapira, ordered the seven suspects in Natan-Zada's death to sign a self-guarantee of NIS 10,000 and to find an outside guarantors as well so that they can be granted bail.