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(photo credit: Channel 10 [file])
A lawyer representing five of the defendants in the Shfaram lynching trial charged on Tuesday that if reports were true that the police had lost a film of the events taken from a helicopter, the state had no case against his clients.
"If the film was lost, the indictments are baseless and illegal," attorney Ahmed Raslan told The Jerusalem Post. But Raslan said it is also possible that the police and the prosecution were concealing the film because it would hurt their case if they handed it over to the defense.
The trial involves the lynching of Eden Natan-Zada, a soldier who in 2005 took an absence without leave and opened fire inside a bus when it made a stop in Shfaram, killing the driver and three passengers, all of them Israeli Arabs.
A policeman managed to board the bus, handcuffed Natan-Zada and tried to protect him from an enraged mob that had surrounded and broken into the vehicle, but Natan-Zada was eventually killed.
According to Raslan, police blew up photos from the film of the lynching taken from the helicopter. The pictures were used to identify suspects, interrogate them and eventually indict 12 of them, including seven on charges of attempted murder and five on charges of assaulting a policeman.
According to Raslan, the photos themselves cannot serve as evidence in the trial without the original film, because there is no way to prove they weren't falsified.
He told the Post that before the hearing for his clients, the state prosecution had handed over most of the evidence except for certain classified information. The film was not included in the first batch of evidence.
After the indictment was filed in Haifa District Court, Raslan received the evidence that had initially been withheld - but still no film.
He said although the state prosecution would normally have been in possession of all the evidence after the police had submitted their recommendation to it, the film remained in their safe because it was so vital.
Now it appears to be lost.
But Raslan said he suspected the authorities were concealing the film because they might find it embarrassing to the policemen who were unable to foil the lynching.
"Maybe they didn't want a scandal on their hands," he said.
On the other hand, the film might have shown that the defendants, even though they were present during the lynching, had nothing to do with it.
At any rate, he said, "I doubt that the police could not have watched over the film if they had really wanted to."