Waail el Arga and Ali Ismail Sa’adah of Halhoul, the two men accused of murdering Asher Palmer and his baby son Yonatan in September, were all smiles at the beginning of the hearing in the Ofer military courtroom Sunday, as they chatted with relatives in a show of brazen chutzpah.
Sa'adah refused to testify against el Arga, whom investigators see as the ringleader, but the smile on el Arga's face evaporated when a judge asked Sa'adah asked to explain why he is afraid to testify: "My family is here and so is [el Arga's] family," Sa'adah said. "The families are friendly with each other. If I testify, this could lead to revenge."
The two have confronted each other over Sa'adah's testimony in Shin Bet interrogation – testimony which implicated el Arga in the murder and placed him behind the wheel of the car when the rock that punched through the windshield and hit Asher was thrown. This apparently means that Sa'adah threw the rock, but this fact was not mentioned in Sunday's hearing, which concerned el Arga's role.
Representatives from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem were also present at the court session, as they had promised to be. They assured Michael Craig Palmer – father of Asher and grandfather of Yonatan – that if the terrorists are not properly brought to justice in Israel, charges will be filed against them in the United States as well. Asher was an American citizen.
Friends of the Palmer family were on hand at the trial, and as in past sessions, several of them held A4-sized photographs of Asher and Yonatan on their laps. The murderers were upset about but when their lawyer asked the judge to order the photographs put away, the judge refused: "We are here because of Asher and Yonatan," he said. "This trial is about them and they are allowed to be here too."
Attorney Adrian Agassi, who represents the Palmer family, told Arutz Sheva that Sunday's session was important, in that the court agreed to introduce Sa'adah's Shin Bet testimony that implicates el Arga. Sa'adah stated outright in his testimony that the group's intention was to murder Jews on Highway 60.