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Dorit Beinisch: Attacker Hits Israeli Chief Justice With Sneaker In Face, Breaks Glasses

ARON HELLER   01/27/10 09:43 AM ET   AP

Mideast Israel Justice

JERUSALEM — An Israeli man hurled his sneakers at Israel's Supreme Court chief justice on Wednesday during a hearing on medical marijuana, hitting her between the eyes, breaking her glasses and knocking her off her chair.

Dorit Beinisch, who is in her late 60s, was not seriously hurt, and the incident appeared to be an isolated one, though there have been rising numbers of threats against the judiciary.

The judge was hit by the first shoe and knocked to the ground as the second one flew overhead, witness Michael Eden said.

Eden said the assailant, a man with thinning gray hair, tossed the shoes from the fourth row of the packed courtroom, about 65 feet (20 meters) from the bench, while yelling "you're corrupt, a traitor, because of you I lost everything."

Beinisch, who has served as chief justice since 2006, received first aid in her chambers and was treated with ice before returning to the courtroom a few hours later to conclude the hearing. She was greeted with a round of applause from lawyers, journalists and guests.

Court spokeswoman Ayelet Filo identified the assailant as Pinchas Cohen, 52. She said his motive was unclear, but the attack did not appear linked to the hearing, where residents of a northern town were asking the court to shut down an authorized producer of medical marijuana.

A top court security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk to the media, said the court has been aware of Cohen since he threatened a judge in 2006. The official said Cohen's beef with the judiciary stemmed from a dispute in family court.

Shai Meir, a spokesman for the marijuana growers, said two of Beinisch's fellow judges dropped to the ground to assist her after she was hit while guards lunged at the shoe-thrower and tackled him.

The attack brought to mind a similar show-throwing attack against former President George W. Bush in Iraq in late 2008, which he dodged.

There have been accusations in Israel that not enough is being done to stem the verbal assaults by politicians and right-wing activists against the judiciary.

Beinisch's rulings have included decisions against the use of Palestinians as human shields and support for reopening sections of a West Bank road to Palestinian traffic. Both have drawn the ire of right-wing leaders who accuse her of capitulating to terror.

She has also stood up to lawmakers' attempt to rein in the court's authority and her court has convicted a number of former ministers accused of corruption.

Moshe Negbi, an Israeli legal analyst, said the attacker could serve as much as three years in prison for the assault if convicted.

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Filed by Adam Taylor  |