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  Article published in the Jerusalem Post,
    -  December 16, 2002.




Hamas cell members in Jerusalem given life sentences

Frank Sinatra Cafeteria at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
after the bomb


The four members of an east Jerusalem Hamas terror cell who were behind a series of bombings that claimed 35 lives were sentenced to stiff prison terms by Jerusalem District Court on Sunday, with three of them given consecutive life terms.

Wa'al Kassem, 31; Wissam Abassi, 25; Muhammad Odeh, 29; and Al'a a-Din Abassi, 30, were convicted last month on multiple counts of murder, immediately after they pleaded guilty to all the charges against them.

Kassem was sentenced to 35 consecutive life terms plus 50 years; Wissam Abassi received 26 life terms plus 40 years; Odeh was given nine consecutive life terms plus 40 years. Al'a a-Din Abassi, the only member of the cell not charged with murder, received 60 years in prison for assisting the enemy.

Kassem, the head of the group described by the prosecution as "the most dangerous and evil cell ever brought to justice in the State of Israel," used his statement to the court at the end of summations to launch a tirade against the State of Israel and urge Jerusalem's Arab population to rise up in jihad.

"We thank the Lord, Allah, for what we have succeeded in doing, and we call upon all of the Arab residents of Jerusalem to carry out jihad for Palestine, which is our religious obligation and right," he said, reading in Arabic from a prepared text which was translated for the court.

At this point, prosecutor Nurit Blubstein objected. "Your honor is allowing incitement in his court," she said.
But Judge Ya'acov Saban allowed Kassem to continue.

"This court has no right to judge us... it is the leaders of the occupation, [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and his soldiers, who should be on trial. We are proud to take part in the jihad for Palestine and it is a struggle which shall continue until death," he concluded.

Bereaved family members who were watching the proceedings from another courtroom by closed circuit TV, after four of them were refused admittance into the courtroom due to past disturbances later voiced astonishment and dismay over the way the case was handled, starting from the state's decision not to seek the death penalty and culminating with Saban's decision to allow Kassem to continue with his tirade.

"Here we are sitting outside of the courtroom, and they are free to speak as they wish," said Shlomo Dagan, whose daughter Danit was killed with her fianc in the bombing at Jerusalem's Moment Cafe in March.

"Instead of offering a deterrent, what we see here is incitement to further murder," he added.
Victims' family members, who had previously been attending each court session, had asked the state to impose the death penalty, but their request was turned down. Life in prison is usually the maximum penalty imposed for terrorist murders. The death penalty was last meted out to Adolph Eichmann in 1962.

"One thing should be clear from the start: We are not talking about combatants here, we are talking about terrorists, pure and simple, who target innocent men, women, and children whose only crime was that they went out for lunch or went out for a coffee," Blubstein said in her address.

As she spoke, the court-appointed defense attorney, Abed Asali, who had agreed to three of the four sentences with the prosecution in advance, asked the three-judge panel to curtail her speech, since "everything was clear anyway and written in the indictment." The judges turned him down.

"To the defense attorney, I say I am speaking on behalf of all the families who will never see their loved ones again, and for the hundreds of people who were wounded by the actions of his clients, some of whom are left without arms and legs and will carry their scars with them for the rest of their lives," she said.

Using their Israeli ID cards to facilitate their attacks, the cell members orchestrated and carried out a series of bombings in the spring and summer, attacks that killed 35 people and wounded more than 200.

The group was behind the March 9 suicide bombing at the Moment Cafe in which 11 people were killed; the May 7 suicide bombing at a pool hall in Rishon Lezion that killed 15; and the July 31 bombing of a cafeteria at the Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus in which nine people were killed.

They are also responsible for two attempts to derail trains with bombs near Lod, and two fuel tanker bombings one inside the Pi Glilot fuel depot north of Tel Aviv, and the other in a Rishon Lezion garage.

The four were caught as they were planning a massive attack in Tel Aviv, as well as bombing Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria for the second time.

Article, © 2002 All Rights Reserved.  The Jerusalem Post


  © 2002-2019 Gabriel H. Ladowski