8 September 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza
The trial of four surviving defendants in the April 14 kidnapping and murder of Italian journalist and International Solidarity Movement activist Vittorio Arrigoni began today in a Gaza military court.
The hearing, which began at 10:30 am, was open to the public. Two International Solidarity Movement members, along with a number of Vittorio’s Palestinian and international friends, observed it.
It was held in a light, airy hall in Gaza’s military court compound. 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, occasionally smiling or waving to family in the courtroom.
Proceedings began with a request by attorneys from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which holds power of attorney for Vittorio’s family in Bulciago, Italy, that they be allowed to participate in the trial.
Military judge Abu Omar Atallah responded that while Palestinian military law does not allow for participation in criminal trials by third parties, the case and its files would be open to PCHR as well as the public.
After the PCHR attorneys moved their chairs from the front of the courtroom back into the public seating, prosecutors attempted to introduce the video contents of a compact disk, as well as a forensic report on the crime scene, as evidence.
The defense counsel responded that the prosecution had not yet made these materials available to them, and that they would need time to review them before deciding on their legal strategy.
Prosecutors also asked that testimony from their witnesses be postponed to allow them further time to prepare. The defense counsel objected, noting that testimony had been scheduled to begin today.
Taking these positions into account, Atallah opted to allow time for the preparation of witnesses by the prosecution, and the review of evidence by the defense. Before adjourning the court at 11:30 am, he scheduled its next hearing for Thursday, September 22.