Four suspects remanded in Ze'evi killing

Alleged perpetrators of assassination to stand trial in civilian court.

rehavam zeevi 298.88 (photo credit: Rehavam Ze'evi memorial site)
rehavam zeevi 298.88
(photo credit: Rehavam Ze'evi memorial site)
The four Palestinians suspected of killing tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi flashed victory signs and shouted that they did not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli court as they were brought for a remand hearing in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Thursday. Ihad Alma, Majdi Rimawi, Hamdi Kura'an and Basel al-Asmar, also yelled, "This is a court of occupation. We were kidnapped from Jericho and demand to be returned to Jericho." During the hearing, a police official told Judge Moshe Bar-Am that the remand was necessary to continue the investigation and because the suspects were too dangerous to be released. The suspects' lawyer, Mahmoud Hassan, argued that the investigation had been completed and there was no need to keep his clients in custody. Bar-Am accepted the state's request and extended the remand of the four by 12 days. "The Ze'evi murder shook the state and involved a true desire to undermine the foundations of democracy and government in Israel," he said. "The gravity with which the crimes attributed to the suspects must be treated derives from this." The suspects, all members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were among six Palestinians taken from a Jericho jail in March and brought to Israel to stand trial. One of the other two is Ahmed Sa'adat, the secretary-general of the PFLP, whom the Israeli government has accused for the past five years of ordering Ze'evi's assassination in 2001. After the murder, the government insisted that the PA hand him and the other four suspects over to be put on trial in Israel. The five, along with Fuad Shubeiki, who was wanted by Israel on other charges, took refuge at Yasser Arafat's government headquarters in Ramallah. In May 2002, the IDF laid siege to the compound and demanded that the six be handed over. Arafat refused. Under an international agreement, the suspects were placed in a Jericho jail under British and American supervision. In March, after the Hamas election victory, the foreign guards were summoned home due to fears for their safety, and Israel immediately captured the suspects. Thus, it came as a surprise and disappointment to some that after all the efforts to capture Sa'adat over so many years, the Justice Ministry announced on Wednesday that Shin Bet investigators had not found sufficient evidence to charge him with Ze'evi's murder. Among the disappointed was the victim's son, Yitach-Palmach Ze'evi, who blasted Mazuz for his decision. But Prof. Emmanuel Gross, of the University of Haifa, said it was quite possible that the investigators had not found the kind of evidence that would stand up in court to prove that Sa'adat was directly involved in the murder. "It is impossible to determine whether the State Attorney's Office has made a mistake regarding Sa'adat without studying the evidence in its possession," he told The Jerusalem Post. "But when it comes to actually putting a suspect on trial, the evidence gathered to back the charges must meet the standards of a judicial procedure." In other words, it was one thing for Israeli leaders to make political charges against Sa'adat, even logical charges given the fact that he was head of the organization whose members allegedly killed Ze'evi. But it is another to come up with the evidence that will stand up in a court of law to the degree of leaving no reasonable doubt in the eyes of the judges that Sa'adat is indeed guilty as charged. Since he apparently could not do so, Mazuz decided that while the suspects in the Ze'evi assassination will be tried in Jerusalem District Court, Sa'adat will be tried in a West Bank military court on charges of security violations.