A Petah Tikva court on Wednesday extended by seven days the remand of Ya'akov "Jake" Teitel, an American-Israeli settler suspected of waging a campaign of terror attacks against Palestinians as well as left-wing and homosexual Israelis.
Judge Einat Ron decided to hold the hearing behind closed doors, barring the press and family members of the accused from viewing the proceedings. Ron's decision came after police investigators made the request, saying they feared Teitel would use the proceedings to pass secret messages to his alleged co-conspirators.
After the judge announced her decision to bar the media, veteran Israeli journalist Moshe Nussbaum rose, and speaking on behalf of the media, called the decision to bar reporters and photographers "ridiculous," telling police, "This guy sent messages for 12 years before you noticed anything, and you're afraid now?"
Teitel's lawyer Adi Keidar also criticized the decision, saying it harmed the public's right to information and the right of Teitel's relatives to appear in court and observe his proceedings.
The media circus was thus pushed outside the confines of the courtroom,
as was Teitel's wife Rivka, who sat smiling and cradling the couple's three-month-old baby as a horde of photographers and journalists swarmed her in a crescent of camera flashes and thrusting microphones.
Teitel's parents, Mark (Mordechai) and Dianne (Devorah) Teitel were not present at the courthouse Wednesday.
Keidar told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that his client had confessed to most of the charges, but said that Teitel had rescinded any confession to the shooting at the Tel Aviv gay center that left two dead, saying there was no connection between him and the crime.
A court appointed psychiatrist ruled earlier this week that Teitel was fit to stand trial, but the defense has hired a psychiatrist to perform another examination of Teitel tomorrow. Keidar said that his client does not feel well and that it will be up to doctors to determine what his mental health is.
"He said he felt he was doing God's work, but we will leave it up to doctors to decide if he is well or not."
Keidar added that Teitel "could be normal, but if he's crazy, it's inside -
he's not the type who you would see it on the outside." Keidar added that although he is not a doctor, Teitel did tell him some strange things that made it clear to him that something is not right with his client.
After Teitel's hearing, Keidar accused police of railroading his client in an attempt to implicate him in a series of unsolved crimes.
"It is obvious that police are seeking to exploit the momentum from Teitel's
arrest, and use the case to help close other outstanding cases."
Keidar was reportedly provided to Teitel by "Honenu" an organization that seeks to protect Israeli Jews accused of serious crimes. On the English version of the Honenu Web site, the organization says it "provides aid for the 'indirect victims' of continued Arab terrorism - those who have been forced to respond in real-time to genuine threats on their own or on others' lives."
A towering representative of Honenu, Shmuel Meidad, and a colleague from Honenu stalked the hallway outside the courtroom, occasionally stopping to speak to Rivka Teitel. Later the three were seen holding a private meeting in the courthouse cafeteria.
Meidad said he does not know Teitel personally, but he believes fully that Teitel is not mentally well and needs help.
"This man is sick, but the state [of Israel] is sicker," Meidad said.
Yosef Espinoza, an alleged co-conspirator of Teitel's, was also brought for a remand extension on Wednesday, a day after he was arrested by the Shin Bet for the second time. The court extended Espinoza's remand by seven days.
Espinoza, 47, a father of two and Teitel's neighbor in Shvut Rachel, was represented in his hearing by celebrity Israeli lawyer Zion Amir, who once represented former president Moshe Katsav and deceased television star Dudu Topaz. Honenu reportedly helped procure Amir for Espinoza's defense, and after the hearing, the high-profile attorney was seen leaving the courthouse with Meidad.
Espinoza is said to be a close friend of Teitel, who had trouble speaking Hebrew and reportedly became close to the fellow English-speaker.
Amir told reporters outside the courtroom that he doesn't understand why police arrested his client, and added that the accusations presented in the closed-door hearing revolved around weapons charges.
Amir did not say whether police are seeking charges against Espinoza or
Teitel in relation to the deadly shooting of two traffic policemen in the
Jordan Valley this year. Police are reportedly examining whether there is a link between Teitel and the murders of the two policemen. Amir also didn't say if his client is accused of assisting Teitel in perpetrating the attacks, or if he is suspected of having known about them beforehand.
Amir added that his client has cooperated fully with investigators and denies all charges against him. He said he expects Espinoza to be released soon.
Teitel's attorney Keidar said that the judge refused his request to represent Espinoza, saying it could present a conflict of interest, leading to speculation that police may try to convince Espinoza to testify against his friend and neighbor.