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Colonial Cases

Attorney General v. Subhi Bey el Khadra, 1930

[sedition - appeal]

Attorney General v. Subhi Bey el Khadra

Supreme Court of Palestine
Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 18 September 1930



Magistrate's Exposure Of Cunning Plot.     

   The small court in which Mr. Keith-Roach sits as magistrate was full to overflowing when judgment was given in the case of Subhi el Khadra, the Manager of the Arab Executive Office.

   He is charged under the Prevention of Crimes ordinance with having written a seditious proclamation and an inflammatory article in Jamieh Al Arabia, a paper which is at present suspended.

   He was found guilty and banished to Safed for one year.  He was also ordered to give security for his good behaviour.

   He will not be allowed to leave Safed during the year.  He will remain under police supervision.

   When the judgment, from which there is no appeal, had been read by Mr. Keith-Roach and translated into Arabic, Fakhri Bey el Husseini rose and asked the court that his client, Subhi Bey, be allowed to remain in Jerusalem until security had been found.

   The magistrate declared that a serious offence had been committed and that Subhi el Khadra should remain in custody until the following day.

   Mr. Riggs said that Subhi Bey el Khadra would be given facilities.  Subhi el Khadra left the court accompanied by a policeman.

   The full text of the judgment is given below.

The Judgment.

  1. The case before me for decision is whether I have reason to believe that there is within my jurisdiction, a person, to wit, Subhi el Khadra, who either orally, or in writing, disseminates or attempts to disseminate any seditious matter which is likely to give rise to violent disturbances between different religious communities, or among different sections of the people.
  2. My task has been lightened by the way in which the case was presented by the Police Department and also by the admirable address given by Abcarius Bey, Advocate for the defence.  Full regard and consideration has been given by me to them.
  3. There are two main documents to consider.  (a) A proclamation issued on the 21st day of August, 1930, by the Arab Executive, and (b) an article entitled "Britain is the Origin of the Disease and head of misfortune," which appeared in the Jamiah el Arabiah newspaper on the 13th day of August, 1930.

          These documents were written in Arabic, and as the official translation of certain passages was objected to by the Defence, I caused the translation to be amended and it is the thus amended translations that are now before me.

  1. The first thing to consider is whether the two documents are seditious in intent and their dissemination likely to give rise to violent disturbance.

Tactics that Would Not Deceive a Child.

  1. I will take the Proclamation first.  The argument that a person can write a document, the first part of which is highly inflammatory inciting his readers to disorder, and then undo the wrong he has done and calm the feelings and possibly actions of his readers by a few words at the end such as calling upon them to love peace, respect order, control feelings, restrain anger and confirm tights solemnly and quietly", is of course no new one.  Such a "gambit" as we say at chess, is the common course adopted by agitators in any country in the world.  It would not deceive a child left alone the adult population of this country.

   Witnesses for the defence say there is criticism of the regime but nothing to excite the feelings or to create disaffection amongst the communities.

Palestinian Reaction to Suggestion.

   English Case Law has been quoted to me by the Defence on the subject.  One cannot necessarily attribute to the ordinary inhabitant of Palestine the same conception or standard of thought or reaction to suggestions as in Great Britain.

   The question for the Court to decide is what meaning the words would convey to ordinary people of Palestine who heard or read them.

Give Rise to Violent Disturbance.

   Not only to I consider the Proclamation seditious, but I consider it likely to give rise to violent disturbance.

  1. I am satisfied that the newspaper article makes use of language calculated to advocate and incite others to public disorders and is therefore a seditious publication
  2.  Having decided that these documents are seditious there remains the question to determine whether Subhi el Khadra disseminated them.
  3.    I will deal with the Proclamation first.  The Arab Executive is said to be part of the Moslem-Christian Association which was registered as a Society on October 25, 1919, by the Military Governor.  January 10, 1930, the following decision was he executive regarding the constitution of the office.

Administration of Office and Accounts.


   To consider as dissolved the Administration Committee which was formed at the last meeting of the Executive on the 1st December, 1929.

   The administration of the office to be continued under the direction of the President, Vice-President, the Secretaries and the Office Manager.  They shall administer the affairs and be responsible, provided that all the officers mentioned above shall have the same authority as that of the Secretaries.  They shall prepare and submit at the next meeting of the Executive, regulations for the internal administration of the Office."

Where Responsibility Lies

  1. It is admitted that Subhi el Khadra id the Office manager.

   A quorum is composed of any three members of the seven who form the Executive body and their decisions are binding unless contrary decisions arc take by the whole Executive later.

  Any one of these persons who happens to be in the office may execute the decisions of the quorum with the sole exception that by resolution dated 21.1.30, taken by a quorum of the Executive, no memorandum shall be sent to Government unless it is signed by the President, or in his absence by one of the Secretaries.

   Primarily, responsibility rests upon these seven persons as a whole.

  1. 0.  On the 12th of August, 1930, at a sitting of the Arab Executive attended by the President, Kassim Pasha Husseini, two Secretaries, Mohamed Izzet and Omar el Saleh and Subhi el Khadra, the Office Manager, the following resolution was passed  and the Minutes signed by the above four men.

   To declare a peaceful general strike on August 23, as a silent protest in regard to the blood of the Arab martyrs, the murderers of whom have not been punished; against the differentiation (distinction) and partiality in the judgments against Arabs and Jews ending in the Orfali case; inviting the big national bodies like Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus and Jerusalem to unite; to publish a manifesto of protest by the Executive (Committee) inviting all Palestinian towns to meet the local governors to submit their protests to them; to hold religious ceremonies in the mosques at noon in memory of the martyrs; to send telegrams of protest to central Government.

Sgd. Kazim Pasha Husseini, Mohamed Izzet, Subhi el Khadra, Omar el Saleh.

The Proclamation.

  1. 1.  As a corollary to this resolution appeared the Proclamation which was confiscated by the Government, and which I have already pronounced to be seditious and likely to give rise to violent disturbances between different religious communities and among different sections of the people.
  2. 2.  Who wrote the Proclamation?

   It is somewhat significant that of the four persons who passed the original resolution, only one has appeared ton give evidence, Izzet Eff. Darwazi, and he said that the "[proclamation was made when he was away."

Significant Disappearance of a Document.

   There must have been a draft of this proclamation but it was not produced before me.  It is again significant that the draft of an important document like this cannot be found, especially as two of the Secretaries who have appeared before me have both stated to the effect that every member of the office shares the responsibility of the actions of the others.  It is difficult to believe the evidence of Mohamed Izzet Darwazi when he stated that if he, as a Secretary, received an order to make a draft of a document, having submitted it to the President for approval and received the President's initial as a sign of approval, he would not keep a copy of the approved documents for further reference.

Not Favourably Impressed by Mr. Moghannam.     

   Moreover, on the subject of office organisation I was not favourable impressed by the manner in which Mr. Moghannam gave his evidence nor his apparent lack of knowledge of the ordinary office procedure of the Arab Executive.  It is also strange that the secretary Omar el Saleh who was one of the signatories to the resolution was not called by Subhi el Khadra in his defence.  He could have been subpoenaed to attend had the defendant asked for him.

Subhi Bey Made No Denial.

13.  Mr. Mavrogordato, Commandant of Police, speaking on oath says that when questioned by him not only did Subhi el Khadra not deny having a hand in the Proclamation , but he said he was one of a committee or group of people who had affixed their signatures to it.


   Neither the President nor Omar el Saleh were called upon by Subhi el Khadra.  Why?  Does this not lend colour to the correctness of the statement made by Mr. Mavrogordato in his evidence that he had private information from a source which he had no reason to doubt that this particular form of proclamation was very strongly opposed by other members of the Arab Executive.

Bad Writing.

   The son of the Printer, Andrea Mughana, stated that the proclamation was printed on his father's press and it was brought by Salewat Effendi while Subhi el Khadra waited outside the office.  He stated it was written in the handwriting of Safwat Effendi, but so badly written that he had to have it dictated to him before he could set it up.

Who Was S?

14. I now turn to the Newspaper Article that appeared in the Jamieh el Arabieh.  It is signed by the letter "Sad." Mr. Mavrogordato stated on oath that he has definite information that Subhi el Khadra is the writer, and when he questioned both him and the editor of the newspaper on the 22nd of August, neither of them denied the fact that Subhi el Khadra was the writer.

The Inspiration.

16.  I do not regard the following statements as essential but they are nevertheless significant.

   Mr. Mavrogordato furthermore stated that he had known Subhi el Khadra for a considerable number of years and he was quite familiar with his own particular style of writing and he was convinced that Subhi was at any rate the inspiriting force behind the whole thing.

The Dream Is One.

   During the course of the proceedings, Ahmed Zaki Pasha a distinguished Egyptian historian was in Court, and by leave of the Court, was called upon by the defence to express his opinion as to whether these two documents contain anything which excited a community against another.  This distinguished man-of-letters, after reading in the Court both the Article and Proclamation begins his evidence by saying:

"First of all I am convinced that both these are due to the same pen, that is the author of this Article must be the author of the manifesto as well.  But I am under the impression that in the second one, this is in the manifesto, he must have had the aid of other persons.  It is written in a high style of Arabic and not in the journalistic style.  Now the two being really one we can speak only of one."

A graphic confirmation of Mr. Mavrogordato's opinion from a gentleman who had nothing to do with the case, but was by chance called upon to express his opinion.

16.  I am satisfied that following upon the resolution of the Arab Executive Subhi el Kahdra either wrote himself or assisted in writing this Proclamation and took steps to disseminate it.

   I am also satisfied that the Article that appeared in the Jamieh el Arabieh was written by Subhi el Khadra.

17.  Having arrived at these conclusions, I will consider the suggestion made by Abcarius Bey that if Subhi el Khadra has done what is alleged by the prosecution he should appear before the District Court on a charge framed under the Criminal Law (Seditious Offences) ordinance of 1929.

   That suggestion is, of course, no concern of mine nor is it a matter upon which I have to express an opinion.

  I am dealing with a case brought under the Prevention of Crime Ordinance 1920-29 and shall confine myself to that alone.

Security for Good Behaviour.

18.  Whereas Subhi el Khadra has been brought before me on a charge of being a suspected person within the meaning of Section 3 of the Prevention of Crime Ordinance 1920 and I am of the opinion that such person should be required to give security for good behaviour within the terms of that Ordinance.

The Sentence.

I now in virtue of the powers given me under the Prevention of Crime Ordinance 1920 and 1929 hereby order that:

  1. He shall be required to give security for the sum of L.P. 400 with two sureties of L.P. 200 each for his good behaviour within the terms of the ordinance for one year
  2. He shall be placed under Police Supervision for a period of one year.

Banished to Safed.

  1. He shall be required to reside within the limits of the Municipal Area of Safed town, in the Safed sub-district for one year.
  2. He shall not be permitted to transfer his residence to any other sub-district or town without the written authority of the Commandant of Police.
  3. He shall at all times keep the District Superintendent of Policy of the District in which he resides notified of the house or the place in which he resides.

At the Nearest Police.

  1. He shall be liable whenever called upon so to do by the Officer in Charge of the police in the town of Safed to present himself at the nearest Police Station.

Home at Night.

  1.  He shall remain within the doors of his residence from one hour after sunset until sunrise, and may be visited at his residence at any time by the police.

19. Should Subhi el Khadra fail to give the security herein ordered he shall go to prison and be there detained until he gives the required security.


The Palestine Bulletin, 19 September 1930


   An appeal against the sentence of Mr. Keith-Roach was lodged by Subhi Bey yesterday with the District Court.  Mr. Keith-Roach in his judgment stated that his judgment was final.  The surety and bail were yesterday found.


The Palestine Bulletin, 4 November 1930


   An application is being made to the High Court in Jerusalem against the judgment of the Deputy District Commissioner in the case of Subhi Bey Khadra who was ordered to reside in Safed for a period of one year.  The application will be heard on Wednesday.

   It will be recalled that the petitioner was until recently one of the secretaries of the Arab Executive, in quiche capacity he was charged with being partly responsible for the drafting of an inciting Proclamation issued by the Executive on August 23, the anniversary of last year's riots.  He was charged also with the publication of an inflammatory article in Al Jamia Al Arabia..


The Palestine Bulletin, 6 November 1930


  The Supreme Court, consisting of the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Francis Khayat and Mr. Justice Mustafa Khaldi, yesterday disallowed the appeal of Subhi Bey Khadra against the decision of the Deputy District Commissioner that he be exiled to Safed for one year.

   The Court held that under the Prevention of Crimes ordinance no appeal could be made from the original decision, whereupon the defendant's counsel endeavoured to show that the Ordinance itself should be amended, but the appeal was dismissed and Subhi Bey will accordingly have to remain in Safed for the period of his sentence.

   Mr. M. E. Moghannem and Aouni Bey Abdul Hadi appeared for the defence.


The Palestine Bulletin, 10 November 1930


   Subhi Bey Kkadra, until recently one of the secretaries of the Arab Executive, whose appeal against the order of the Deputy District Commissioner that he be exiled to Safed for a year was last week refused by the High Court, has been returned to Safed.  We understand that a further appeal is to be made. ...


The Palestine Bulletin, 28 January 1931


   At the meeting of the Legal Board which was held on Monday, the following persons were granted licences to practise before the civil courts: ... and Subhi Bey el Khadra. ... 


The Palestine Bulletin, 15 June 1931


   Subhi Bey El Khadra, who was exiled to Safed by order of the District Commissioner has been allowed to remain in Jerusalem for a period of fifteen days.  He had previously been granted permission to stay in the city for one month.

   Subhi Bey is in Jerusalem on connection with his application to be allowed to practise as a lawyer.  Although he has passed his examination he has been blackballed by other lawyers and the Chief Justice has refused to call him.

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