Foreign Conflicts: Motion.

The next item is a motion we have received from Senator Norris concerning the trial of Mr. Ezra Yizhak Nawi. The motion was received by the secretariat on 14 May but due to an administrative error it was omitted from the agenda and members' briefing. I understand that the clerk to the committee e-mailed the motion to members yesterday. I apologise to Senator Norris for this error but if members are agreeable, I am happy to deal with the motion now.

I move:

That this Committee expresses concern at the trial of Ezra Yizhak Nawi and the dangerous precedent that may be set.

I thank the Chairman. I greatly appreciate the courtesy and efficiency of the secretariat in dealing with this matter. I understand exactly the administrative difficulty that was found. If the Chairman wishes, I will outline the background.

Reasonably briefly. As Senator Norris knows, we met him on the delegation.

I was going to say that. Members of the committee met Ezra and saw the work that he was doing, particularly in the two small villages of Susya and Twaneh outside Hebron. His work is non-violent. It is supported by Rabbis for Human Rights, as he himself is Jewish. It is supported also be an organisation called Ta'ayush and Bethsalem, the human rights organisation.

They have been trying to incapacitate him for a long time. He has been attacked physically on many occasions, both by the settlers and by officers of the state. The intention is to get him convicted so that he can be excluded from the region, as a particular military area.

The trial revolves around a situation which has been captured on film by one of the Israeli television stations. I have seen the film, which clearly shows Ezra removing a stone from one of the Palestinians and stating that this is a non-violent demonstration, although they are demolishing a house, which is rather sad for an elderly couple. Ezra then disappears, in the company of soldiers, inside one of these huts and when he comes out, they are quite happy and he is a bit dishevelled, and he is charged with attacking officers of the state, police or soldiers.

The judge stated she had to make up her mind between the evidence of two submissions. At least one previous case has been thrown out by a judge because he found that the soldiers were lying. This judge has decided it is an equal balance and she must go with the state.

My feeling is — I have written to them about this — that this is the Denning judgment all over again. Lord Denning, in the case of the Birmingham Six, stated that to find that the police had lied or falsified information was an appalling prospect. It was, but appalling prospects must be confronted.

This is a very serious issue. It is a matter of which the committee has direct personal knowledge. I would be grateful if the members would support this motion and take the action that Deputy Michael D. Higgins kindly suggested, namely to ask the Minister to raise it. There is an international campaign to ensure that Ezra is not sent to prison and this verdict is reversed. I am very grateful to Deputy Higgins for that.

If I could mention the two other matters, the first of which relates to Sri Lanka. I have no time for the Tamil Tigers, their bombings, etc. However, apparently, according to human rights organisations, there isprima facie evidence of human rights abuses, in fact, possible war crimes, and I strongly support this cause.

I am sure the committee will be unanimous on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. Like the trial of Ezra, it is what may be described as a "ready-up". She is not responsible. Anybody could swim into my basement. I would not expect to be arrested for it.

I second the motion.

When the committee travelled to Israel I managed to stay an extra day and go on a tour around Hebron where Irish Aid funds projects. Some of them were funded through the fund-raising efforts of Senator Norris.

We accompanied Ezra on some of the wells projects on which he was working. Driving along the road we were abused. The Israeli settlers drove up along the side of the road and started shouting and screaming at Ezra. We were visited by members of the Israeli defence forces who asked him what he was doing, and he gave a forceful answer. No doubt they are targeting him because he is a thorn in their side. He is trying to protect the most vulnerable who do not have a voice.

Lord Denning stated that if the officers of the state had lied it would be an "appalling vista". No doubt they are probably not telling the whole truth in this case. We should do anything we can to ensure justice is done and Ezra does not go to prison as a result of lies by members of the Israeli defence forces and by a skewed judiciary.

We will write to the Minister and to the Israeli ambassador to express our concerns about Ezra's arrest.

Question put and agreed to.