Eden Natan-Zada was lynched after he opened fire on bus passengers, killing four; protesters heckled court on Thursday, claiming ‘victims are on trial.’
The trial of seven Shfaram Arabs accused of lynching a Jewish extremist who had just killed four Arabs on a bus will resume Thursday in the Haifa District Court, after Wednesday’s session was suspended due to a demonstration that turned stormy.
Eden Natan-Zada, an AWOL soldier, opened fire on bus passengers in Shfaram with his army rifle in August 2005, killing four and wounding more than 20. The act was believed a “protest” against the disengagement from Gaza taking place at the time. An angry mob stormed the bus and killed him. Due to photographs that showed him still alive after having been disarmed and bound, police concluded that the killing may have been a criminal lynching and opened a probe.
A few months later, 12 residents of Shfaram were arrested. Five were charged with assaulting and disturbing policemen in the line of duty, while seven were charged with attempted murder. The case of the first five ended with a plea bargain in which they were sentenced to community service. But the case of the other seven dragged on, due to testimony from dozens of witnesses and unsuccessful attempts to reach a plea bargain. All seven pleaded innocent.
During Wednesday’s hearing, at which the sides were presenting their summations, dozens of Shfaram residents and leaders of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee demonstrated outside the courthouse. The demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and pictures of Natan-Zada’s victims and chanted slogans denouncing the trial.
“Anyone who examines this story understands that they’re putting the victim on trial instead of investigating who aided and abetted that terrorist,” charged Marwan Bahus, who was 15 when his father Michel was killed in the attack. “It’s impossible to accept the idea that he acted alone,” Bahus said.
At the same time, demonstrators inside the courtroom began disrupting the proceedings, causing the hearing to be suspended for two hours. Police arrested four demonstrators and will decide today whether to release them or seek to have them remanded.
Before the session was disrupted, defense attorney Maher Talhami argued that in similar cases in which civilians or policemen took action against terrorists, not only was no criminal investigation opened, but the civilians and policemen in question were lauded and even received medals. He also detailed evidentiary difficulties in proving that these seven individuals were involved in the lynching, given that thousands of people were in the crowd surrounding the bus at the time.
The prosecution relied mainly on testimony by policemen and photographs from the scene of the incident.