Tags: Israel | justice | attacker | court

Attacker Throws Sneakers at Israeli Chief Justice

Thursday, 28 January 2010 12:15 AM EST

JERUSALEM - Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch was lightly wounded Wednesday morning when a 52-year-old man with a criminal record threw two of his sneakers at the chief justice as she presided over a court hearing – striking her in the face with the first shoe and knocking her off her chair as the second whizzed past.

Beinisch, who returned to work about an hour-and-a-half later, was shaken up and slightly bruised in the incident, which broke her glasses and sparked chaos in the courtroom and outer foyer of the High Court building, which is located in the capital's government quarter.

The assailant, identified by police as Pinchas Cohen, entered the courtroom around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, asked a bystander if the woman sitting on the bench was in fact "the president" and then hurled his shoes in her direction after receiving a positive response.

"You're corrupt! You've ruined our lives!" Cohen reportedly yelled during the attack.

Security guards then lunged at Cohen, detained him immediately, and pulled him out of the courtroom, which was subsequently cleared. Supreme Court Judges Elyakim Rubinstein and Uzi Vogelman, who were also present during the attack, were taken into their chambers after the incident as well. Cohen was placed under arrest by police officers moments later.

According to police, Cohen has a record for past threats, including those made against his lawyer Ariel Rozenblatt and Family Court Judge Phillip Marcus during a 2006 court case, for which he was arrested.

While a police spokesman on Wednesday announced that Cohen had admitted to carrying out the attack as revenge for a previous court ruling, it was unclear if that ruling was connected to the 2006 court case.

Wednesday's attack occurred as the court was discussing a petition filed by the Tikun Olam organization, which had asked the court to extend an interim order preventing the Health Ministry from canceling the organization's license to operate a greenhouse for medicinal marijuana in the . That case, however, was believed to be unrelated to the attack.

Regarding the incident, Supreme Court Spokeswoman Ayelet Pilo told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that she was positive the court's security apparatus would "review and learn from the incident, and learn the necessary lessons."

"As far as changes in their protocol however," Pilo said of the courthouse guards, "It's far too early to say what kinds of changes, if any, might be made."

Pilo agreed that it was impossible to have every person who entered the building take off their shoes, but added that she was certain the building's security guards would be vigilant in attempting to prevent such outbursts from happening again.

"The guards responded immediately, and the man was arrested and taken into custody," Pilo said of the security guards' response.

On Wednesday afternoon, the director of the country's courthouses, Moshe Gael, held a press conference inside the Supreme Court building, during which he told reporters that, "we're seeing a society in Israel in which all of the boundaries have been broken, all the red lines crossed."

"That said," Gael continued, "This was an especially severe incident, which takes that sentiment even higher."

Gael also refused to elaborate on any potential changes the incident might spell for security protocol inside the Supreme Court or elsewhere, although he did remark that, "it's always good to update and renew the [existing security] directives. There has already been an initial investigation into the incident, and the security apparatus will continue to review it."

Nonetheless, Pilo announced later on Wednesday that Beinisch had called an emergency meeting of all the heads of the country's courts for Thursday, in light of Wednesday's attack.

Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is currently in to commemorate International Holocaust Day, telephoned Beinisch to express his support for her after the attack.

“I’m mortified,” Netanyahu told Beinisch.

“Attacks must not be carried out against the court, and hurting the Supreme Court president is unthinkable. I support you and the entire legal system,” the prime minister said.

Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman also criticized the attack on Wednesday.

“This grave incident must not be tolerated," Ne'eman said in a statement. “The attack hurts not only the Supreme Court President, but the justice system as a whole. A justice system is a major part of a democratic regime in any civilized state."

MK Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) also issued a statement after the incident, saying that the writing had been on the wall months before the attack.

“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's thundering silence in the wake of wild attacks by his ministers against the Supreme Court in the past year, was shattered today in an ugly way,” the statement read.

“It was shameful violence, the motives for which were known to all."

Cohen, a police spokesman announced on Wednesday evening, had expressed remorse over the attack and would be brought in front of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for a hearing regarding his remand.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, 28 January 2010 12:15 AM
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