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Trial over murder of pro-Palestinian activist begins in Gaza

9 September 2011 | Haaretz

Four surviving defendants charged with kidnapping and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni; court proceedings postponed until September 22.

The trial of the four surviving defendants allegedly involved in the kidnapping and murder of Italian journalist and International Solidarity Movement activist Vittorio Arrigoni began on Thursday in a Gaza military court, the ISM website reported.

Arrigoni was abducted earlier this year by members of the Monotheism and Holy War group in Gaza. The group initially claimed in a video that they would free the activist if Hamas would release one of their leaders whom they had arrested.

However, Arrigoni’s body was found hanging in the home of a Palestinian militant in the Gaza strip, mere hours after he was reportedly kidnapped.

The hearing began on Thursday morning and was open to the public. The four defendants, Abu Ghoul, age 25, Khader Jram, age 26, Mohammed Salfi, age 23, and Hasanah Tarek, age 25, appeared to be in good health at the hearing, the report said.

Attorneys from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which holds power of attorney for Vittorio’s family in Bulciago, Italy, requested that they be allowed to take part in the trial, the report said.

The presiding military judge Abu Omar Atallah denied the request, saying that Palestinian military law does not allow third-party-participation in criminal trials. However, he said that the case and its files would remain open to PCHR and the public, the website said.

The prosecution reportedly then introduced evidence that the defense counsel claimed had not been previously available to them, and requested that they be given time to revise their legal strategy, the report said.

Prosecutors asked Atallah to postpone the testimony from their witnesses, the report said, requesting further time to prepare, The defense objected to this request, saying that the testimony had been scheduled to begin on Thursday.

The judge took both the prosecution and the defense’s requests into account, scheduling the next hearing for September 22, the report said.