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Colonial Cases

Attorney General v. Jadallah, 1931


Attorney General v. Jadallah

The Palestine Bulletin, 22 December 1931





Mr. Cressall's judgment on December 18 in the case of:

Saba Said v. Jadallah El A'raj

   The Accused is charged with four offences:-

  1. Knowingly giving false testimony in a judicial proceedings touching as matter material to a question depending on that proceeding.
  2. Swearing falsely before a persons authorised to administer an oath.
  3. Giving a Police officer written information which he knew to be false concerning the commission of an offence.
  4. Fabricating by means other than perjury or subornation of perjury.

   The facts which gave rise to this prosecution are as follows:-

   In the beginning of 1929 the informant Saba Said, then a Magistrate, was appointed to take over from another Magistrate the preliminary investigation into a charge of conspiracy to murder brought against the present Accused, Jadallah.

   On April 4, 1929, the Magistrate (Saba Said) gave his decision and committed not only Jadallah but two of the prosecution witnesses although they had not been charged with any offence.  They were therefore not accused persons within the meaning of section 35 of the Trial upon Information Ordinance but by misinterpreting the provisions of this section the prosecution decided that they were, and apparently concluded that the magistrate's action had deprived them of evidence against Jadallah. The incident gave rise to a rumour that the magistrate had been bribed, and on May 10 the Attorney general entered a stay of proceedings against the two witnesses referred to above, but not against Jadallah who two and a half years later is still awaiting a judicial determination of the serious criminal charge on which he was committed for trial.

   Following the stay of proceedings, mentioned above, a secret investigation into the bribery allegation was instituted by the Law Officers of the Government.  The investigation took the form of recording statements made by Jadallah and were given by him on various occasions between June and August 1929.

   In all six statements were taken from him, and the procedure followed was to compel his appearance before various Police officers and officials in the Attorney General's department to answer questions that were put to him.

   In most of these statements he makes contradictory assertions concerning money transactions he has had with various people in his endeavour to escape from the consequences of the law.  In the fifth statement given on July 24, 1929, he makes - for the first time - the definite assertion that he had bribed Saba Said in order to get him to commit for trial the two principal witnesses in the murder case, and in a final statement given on August 19 to Police Office Shitreet he confirms his allegation and gives a mass of detail concerning the transaction, incidentally implicating Police Inspector Thurayya Jaouni and one Spiro Houris.  In the meantime it appears that Jadallah had been charged with bribery, and on August 4 was committed for trial by the magistrate.  This case has not yet been brought before the District Court for trial.  It further appears that the Police Inspector (Thurayya Jaouni) and Spiros Houris had also been charged with bribery and duly committed for trial on August 12 and August 5 respectively, but as the Attorney General entered a stay of proceedings on September 7, 1931, and October 3, 1930, these cases have not yet been judicially determined.

   It is therefore clear that at the time Jadallah was being questioned by the Law Officers and the police he was an accused person who had been committed for trial on two serious criminal charges, namely incitement to murder and bribery.

Investigation Unduly Protracted.

   It is equally clear that the procedure adopted by those responsible for the investigation was not only unduly protracted but in direct conflict with the established principles which govern the administration of Justice, inasmuch as it involved the questioning of an accused person by officials in authority.  His statements are contradictory and include a "confession" obtained under circumstances which in my view render it utterly devoid of judicial value.  I suggest that the correct attitude was to pursue all the criminal charges upon which he, Spiros Houris and the Police Inspector had been committed in order to obtain a judicial determination on the main fact involved, namely, "Did the Magistrate (Saba said) receive a bribe or not?"

   This was not done, however, but on August 6, 1929, Saba Said was interdicted and placed on half pay.  As the Judicial Committee which was appointed under Government Regulations to hold an enquiry into the allegations made against him did not sit until May 18, 1931, it will be seen that this public officer was given an enforced holiday for nearly two years at Government expense.  In the meantime, on August 8, 1929, he had been arrested on a charge of subornation of perjury, and on July 11, 1930 (nearly one year later) this charge ended in his acquittal before the District Court.

   It is on these facts and in these circumstances that I am called upon in the latter part of 1931 to say whether Jadallah has committed perjury and kindred offences.

Contradictions And Untruths

   The informant avers that the statements contain contradictions and untruths, and I agree that they do.  That does not mean however that an offence has been committed.  There are certain essentials to be proved to constitute the offence of perjury and it is unnecessary for me to elaborate on these, except to remark that "mens rea" is necessary and self contradiction is mot sufficient in itself to convict for perjury.  I am definitely of the opinion that a jury (as represented in Palestine by a Court of three judges) would consider it an insult to be called upon to give a decision on the facts under review.  They would find, as I do, that:

  1. The statements given by Jadallah were not 'wilfully' made in view of the circumstances under which they were taken,
  2. His allegation of bribery against Saba Said is a matter that should have formed the subject of criminal proceedings before a properly constituted court, and
  3. Until such a trial takes place it is ludicrous to ask any Court to find that the numerous statements given b y him constitute perjury or any criminal offence.


   Finally, they should share my astonishment to discover that in a country under British protection it is possible for a Government department, corresponding to the Director of Public Prosecutions in England, to "summon" an accused person awaiting trial on two serious criminal charges for the purpose of putting searching questions to him concerning the subject matter of such charges. The fact that his inquisition resulted in a confession may have been satisfactory to his questioners, but the procedure adopted is obviously open to serious objection from a Judicial point of view.

   From a perusal of the documentary exhibits in the case I have seen enough to convince me that matters which should have formed the subject of a trial before a Court of competent criminal jurisdiction were, for some undisclosed reason, treated by those in authority in a manner entirely foreign to the recognised principles of British Justice.  I consider that if credence was given to Jadallah's assertions of bribery it was the duty of the Attorney General to pursue the case to finality before the District Court.  Saba Said was entitled to have these allegations investigated, and upstroke demanded a definite judicial finding on the facts.

   As I have already started no such trial has taken place, but after an enforced holiday of two years at Government expense he was called upon to answer the allegations before a private tribunal which is not governed by the rules of evidence nor by any code of criminal procedure.

Victims Of An Amazing Situation

   Both he and the present accused (Jadallah) have my sympathy for being the victims of an amazing situation which appears to call for some official explanation.

   I find that in these circumstances the charge against the accused has been prematurely brought, for unless and until the various trials already referred to are completed, it is not possible for a Court to arrive at a definite conclusion as to his guilt or otherwise.  I decline to commit the accused and he is discharged.


Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 29 May 1932


Four Years For Inciting To Murder

   For pleading guilty to the charge of inciting another person to murder his brother, Jadallah Hanna Araj was sentenced to four years imprisonment yesterday by the District Court of Jerusalem.

   The accused was committed for trial on April 4, 1929, by the Magistrate (Saba Said) with two of the prosecution witnesses although these witnesses were not charged with any offence.

   On May 10, the Attorney general; entered a stay of proceedings against the two witnesses referred.

   Some four years after the offence was alleged to have been committed Jadallah was brought yesterday before the District Court, composed of Judge Plunkett, Judge Mejid and Magistrate Barady.  On the accused pleading guilty the Court passed sentence of four years imprisonment.  The accused said that he was on good terms with his brother who forgave him.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School