HC Deb 12 October 1943 vol 392 cc686-7
12. Rear-Admiral Beamish

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will give particulars of recent trials in Palestine concerning smuggling of arms and the quantities of these, the names and connections of the convicted persons, for what section of the population the arms were intended, and whether such smuggling is rife or is an isolated case?

Sir J. Griģģ

There have been three separate trials before military courts in Jerusalem, involving two British soldiers, Stoner and Harris, two Jewish civilians, Sirkin and Rachlin and a third Jewish civilian called Sacherov. The two soldiers were deserters, the first civilian was secretary of the Haifa Seamen's Union, the second was the owner-driver of a taxi and the third was a sub-contractor of a contracting organisation affiliated to the General Federation of Jewish Labour. In the first two trials the accused were charged with the unlawful possession of 105,000 rounds of ammunition and 3oo rifles. Stoner and Harris pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. Sirkin and Rachlin were found guilty after a trial lasting over six weeks and were sentenced to 10 and 7 years respectively. The trial of Sacherov, who was also charged with the unlawful possession of arms, ended on 6th October. He has been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. These sentences are subject to confirmation by the General Officer Commanding. Arms trafficking in Palestine has, unfortunately, always been rife in both communities but known cases of arms smuggling on this scale are rare.

Rear-Admiral Beamish

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the parents of one of the privates who, according to Press reports, has been sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, are very anxious to have information on this subject? Does it not seem illogical that so humble a member of His Majesty's Forces should appear to be bearing the whole onus of this serious manifestation in Palestine?

Sir J. Griģģ

As I said in my answer, the General Officer Commanding has to confirm or vary the sentences. After that has been done, I shall no doubt receive verbatim reports of the trial, but until then I think it would be extremely wise to reserve any further comment.

Sir A. Knox

Where do the rifles come from?