Judge and Prosecutor Clash in Trial of Marwan Barghouti

An argument erupted yesterday between the judge and prosecutor in the trial of Marwan Barghouti, the former Tanzim leader in the West Bank.

Warning her to behave, Judge Sarah Sirota threatened to complain to the Bar Association about prosecutor Dvorah Chen.

Yesterday's argument began after Chen called two policemen to the witness stand at Tel Aviv District Court, where Barghouti is on trial for terrorist acts. The policemen had visited the sites of the attacks attributed to Barghouti.

Barghouti then stood up and said: "I don't understand what you're talking about. What has this to do with me?"

"It's not clear to me, either," Sirota responded.

Chen protested that it is up to the prosecution to decide which witnesses to bring. She further complained that the court had been reprimanding her from the start.

Sirota said the prosecutor could file a complaint, "but when you're in court, you must be polite. You don't respect the court, you bring irrelevant witnesses. ... If you continue shouting, I'll complain about you to the Bar Association."

The clash between the court and Chen started earlier this week, when the prosecution witnesses began to testify. Sirota, who is sitting in court with Judges Avraham Tal and Dr. Amiram Binyamini, cut short the prosecutor's opening statement. The stenographer was asked not to take down all of Chen's speech but only the parts approved by the judges.

Sirota would not let prosecution witness Yosef Kuperwasser, head of Military Intelligence's research division, testify and instructed Chen to present only his opinion.

The judges displayed impatience with the parade of hostile witnesses Chen called to the stand, including several terrorists convicted of murdering Israelis, who told the police they had received instructions from Barghouti. In court, they refused to testify, put their hands on their ears and made political statements.

This took place repeatedly as Chen tried in vain to question the witnesses. The judges interrupted her several times, apparently in an attempt to shorten the procedure as much as possible.

After yesterday's exchange between Chen and Sirota, Barghouti stood up and said: "You are presenting a deceptive spectacle and brainwashing the Israeli public. My position is that nothing justifies hurting innocent people. Only yesterday there was an assassination (by Israel) and innocent people were killed. The State of Israel is waging war against an entire nation."

The judges allow Barghouti to express himself freely because he is representing himself. Barghouti's public defenders, meanwhile, sit in court silently because he has refused to cooperate with them.