The trial of Israeli Knesset member Azmi Bishara opened yesterday at the Upper Magistrate’s Court in Nazareth. Bishara is charged with “supporting a terrorist organization,” a crime that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The charges were filed by the Israeli Attorney General last fall, following two speeches Bishara made allegedly praising Hezbollah. Bishara is the only Parliamentary representative of the National Democratic Assembly, a Palestinian political party that calls for the transformation of Israel into a state for all its citizens. He is also the only representative to have his parliamentary right to freedom of speech revoked.
Bishara’s trial has sparked outrage and protest throughout Europe, Israel, and the rest of the Arab World. As the trial began yesterday, supporters rallied outside the Nazareth court. Inside, meanwhile, Bishara’s lawyers argued that “political” motives were behind his indictment. The next date for Bishara’s trial is set for April 4th, 2002.
- Hassan Jabarddin, lawyer for Azmi Bishara