THE DENIAL OF THE AUSTRIAN EMBASSY
Thursday, Muharram 15, 1256 H (March 19, 1840)
Committee sent a memorandum to the Austrian Consul in
The Investigator informed Mr. Picciotto as follows:
"The report by Murad Al-Fattal, David Harari's servant, and the confessions of the others indicated that you were in the company with those present at the slaying of Ibrahim Amarah, the servant of Priest Thomas. It is required of you to state the facts and tell us the truth."
Isaac Picciotto responded: "I was not present, and I have heard nothing in regard to this matter. I do not know anything about what has happened. It was an honored for me to accompany the representative of the Austrian Consul, Mr. Joseph Ayrouth to visit His Excellency, the Governor, at his office. There can be no doubts regarding my participation in the slaying, or of my presence during the slaying. This had been mentioned by His Excellency, the Governor to the Austrian Consul. It is possible that I may have some information about the matter due to what was reported by David Harari's servant. Especially so, after it had been confirmed that on the night the Priest disappeared, I was spending the evening with Khawaja Magsoud. I am at a loss now, because you are relying on false statements and accusations regarding matters beyond my knowledge. I have proof and evidence which will attest to my whereabouts from Wednesday afternoon to the afternoon of Thursday which will confirm that I had nothing to do with these false accusation against me. I cannot provide answers to what may develop daily from false statements. I can add nothing except my first answer in which I have explained how I spent my time during the whole period involving the disappearance of the Priest, Thomas, and his servant."
The Investigation continued as follows:
The Investigator stated, "In fact, we did not have any suspicion regarding Isaac Picciotto in the beginning. But our suspicion developed later due to the confessions of the servant Murad, and the others who were present with him. As to what Isaac has said regarding his spending the evening with Mr. Magsoud, and regarding the confessions of the others, in addition to the servant, we are ready to bring them for a face to face confrontation. As far as discrediting the witnesses, the servant and all the others are followers of the religious teaching of Moses, they are all Jews. There is no reason to suspect any of them. Especially when they have confessed regarding the participation of persons who are their own relatives of friends."
Isaac Picciotto answered: "We went to spend the evening with Mr. Magsoud about after sunset (Arabic Time). We were the first to arrive. This statement is in regard to the time. As to what you have just stated regarding those who bear false witness, in regard to them being of the Jewish religion, Your Excellency knows that whoever bears false witness as a Jewish believer, leaves no doubt that he has deserted his religion. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, it is of no value as to what has been said falsely by my Jewish brother. I have only one statement which is "I do not know anything regarding this matter."
The Investigator then asked "Name those who attended the evening party at Maqsoud's house so they may be brought for questioning."
Picciotto answered "As I have said, we arrived before anyone else. The others started to arrive following one another until (Arabic Time). Those present were: Botrus (Peter) Al-Jahil and his brother Gobran, Bisharah Nasr-Allah, Francis Salina and his wife, Michael Sola, Abdullah Al-Homsi, and Antwan Swabini."
The Committee issued a memorandum calling for those named by Isaac Picciotto. They ordered the dispatcher to bring them for questioning. The Committee also adopted a decision requiring that Isaac will be present during this questioning in order to confront him with his statements to the Committee.
Q: "Yesterday you wrote your report on the slaying of the servant of Priest Thomas. Isaac Picciotto has denied the facts as you stated them."
A: "Isaac Picciotto was present."
Isaac Picciotto asked Aslan: "What time was it when I was there?" Aslan answered: "The time was between sunset and Isha." Isaac Picciotto said: "I want to see what Aslan Farhi wrote in his report."
The report was
brought in. Isaac asked that it be read. The report was delivered orally word
by word. After the reading Isaac Picciotto said: All of what has been said in
this report is false. It has no bases for truth. It seems that Aslan Farhi has become arrogant
after receiving his safe ordinance from our Afandi.
He is taking a short cut to avoid being beaten or tortured..
If we were Egyptian subjects and we were accused, facing torture, such as we
know of, and we obtained a similar safe conduct as he has, we might bear false
witness also to save ourselves as he did. But God forbid us (the Jews) to do
such a thing because this will destroy the sense of trust and honor in such
situations. Upon my return to the Consulate this morning, I am going to call
His Excellency the Austrian Consul and two witnesses to submit objection
against this false accusation directed toward me. I will make a claim to this Diwan (Office) and to the Supreme Diwan
which include those who are responsible over me: His Excellency the
Governor General, and His secretary Mansour Tayyan: Mr. Massari, Head of the
Medical Corp of the Governor General; Khawaja Chubli Ayoub; and Khawaja Beaudin, the Assistant to
the French Consul in
General, Head of the Investigation Committee, said: The subject of objection
does not concern us very much. You should know that Murad
Al-Fattal, David Harari's servant, has confessed. So
has the Barber Soliman Saloom.
Their confessions were in complete agreement, almost identical. Then came Muallim Aslan's
confession which confirmed the complete agreement of all three confessions, in
spite of the fact that they were separated from each other, in single and
separate rooms. This is to say that in their solitary confinement with no
chance of communication among them. If there were falsification or forgery,
these identical confessions would not have happened. If Muallim
Aslan is in the habit of falsifying, and here in
Isaac Picciotto replied: "You have said that my objections to your questions do not interest you very much, and I say that the purpose of the objections are to reveal the falsehood. As to the identical confessions we do not know this kind of forgery and have no experience with it. We have nothing except our first answer regarding the hours we spent from Wednesday to Thursday afternoon.
Then the Head of the Investigation Committee said, "We have no knowledge of the forgery of which you speak, and/or its purposes. You must explain to us the aim of this forgery."
Then Isaac Picciotto said: "This forgery is the work of some enemies."
The Investigator added: "You must identify for us those enemies."
Picciotto stated, "The enemies are many."
Those who were at Khawaja Maqsoud's party were brought in for questioning. They included: George Maqsoud, Antwan Swabini, Bisharah Nasr-Allah, Gobran Jahil, and his brother Botrus Jahil.
The investigation of these men started with the following statement and questioning to each of them:
Q: Khawaja Isaac Picciotto was one of those who attended your party on the Wednesday-Thursday evening when Priest Thomas disappeared. I would like each of you to tell us when (Mr. Picciotto arrived at the party.
Each man then answered:
1 - George Maqsoud. "I believe he came before Isha call to prayer. Although I am not quite certain as to the exact time."
2 - Antwan Seabini: "He came between two and ."
3 - Bisharah Nasr-Allah: "Picciotto came between . When he arrived all were already there (Sola and the others). With me were Gobran Jahil and Abdullah Homsi."
4 - Gobran Jahil's answer was exactly like that of Bisharah.
5 - Botrus Jahi: "I went to Maqsoud's house between and three. When I arrived Picciotto was there."
Once again the Investigator turned his questioning toward Swabini: "Were you there before the arrival of Picciotto?" Swabini answered: "Yes, I was there." Then the Investigator asked George Maqsoud confirmed by saying: "Yes, he was there. I had already sent the servant to invite Khawaja Sola. The servant returned with him. I then sent Swabini once more with the invitation."
Then the Investigator called Yehya Bziti, the servant of Isaac Picciotto, and asked him again about the time they went to the evening party. In the presence of all he answered, "We went half an hour after Isha. The Gates were closed and had to be opened for us."
The Investigator then called Picciotto and confronted him with the statements of those who were at the party about his late arrival, and his involvement with the slaying of Priest Thomas' servant. He answered, "I have no answer except what I have already told you in the first questioning on Friday, 3rd of Muharram 1256 H."
After this event due to the denial of Isaac Picciotto, the Investigation Committee sent a message to the Austrian Consul as follows:
Yesterday we sent
you a memo requesting that Khawaja Isaac Picciotto be
sent for questioning regarding the subject of the slaying of Priest Thomas Al-Capuci's sevant. Mr. Picciotto
came accompanied by your authorized interpreter, Khawaja
Yusuf (Joseph) Zananiri.
The questioning of Khawaja Isaac Picciotto took
place, and your interpreter, Yusuf Zananiri recorded the answers on behalf of Isaac Picciotto,
according to his request. At the beginning of the investigation, His Excellency
the Consul of France came visiting. He was a witness
to the questions and answers. Then he started to speak with Khawaja
Isaac in French. Suddenly, Khawaja Isaac Picciotto
stood up, he acted angrily and behaved foolishly, claiming that His Excellency
the Consul had insulted and belittled him in his conversations. He said that
"he was no longer ready to answer more questions; that he did not want to
listen to any more questions, that he will not accept the continuation of this
case except with the presence and protection of the Austrian Consul." We
said to him, that you yourself started the conversation with His Excellency,
the Consul of
Report of Saturday,
Muharram 17, 1256 H
The Austrian Consul's reply to the Message from the Investigation Committee: "We are returning Isaac Picciotto, with Yusuf Zananiri, to complete the investigation of the slaying of Priest Thomas' servant."
The Head of the Investigation Committee continued with Picciotto's case as follow: "You came on Thursday, Muharram 15, 1256 H. for questioning. The investigation ended when you were confronted by your servant, who stated that on the night of the slaying of the servant of Priest Thomas, you went to George Maqsoud's house about half an hour after Isha call to prayer. The Gates were closed and the night watchman opened them for you. At this point in the investigation you stood up and refused to answer more questions leaving for the Austrian Consulate. Now, what is requested of you is that you reply to your servant's statement. What is your reply?
replied: "I am not obliged to reply to my servant's confession. But I will
answer an order to explain to those in authority, who are foreigners in
In the servant's first confession, he said that we went after the Isha call to prayer at about an hour or an hour and quarter. Then in his second confession he said that we went about half an hour after the Isha call to prayer. The servant may be excused for changing his confession after being jailed and frightened for his life. George Magsoud stated in his confession on Thursday, Muharram 15th that we arrived at his house at after sunset, and that there was no one attending the party at this time. Then Swabini came and he stated in his confession that we arrived at George Maqsoud's house between two and three. Then Botrus Hahil said that he came at and we were in Maqsoud's house. George Magsoud confirmed in the presence of Swabini that we came to his house about . Later he sent his servant to invite Michael Sola because he was late in arriving. The servant returned with Michael Sola's apology for being late because Shandam Azar and Mullim Ibrahim Ayub were visiting him. Once more Magsoud sent after him. Botrus Jahil said that he arrived about .
In comparing these statements it shows the falsehood of Swabini's statement and its worthlessness. Especially the Swabini is known to be of ill repute in public and private circles. As to the statement of Khawaja Magsoud, it was obtained twelve days after the incident, which invites mistaken judgment concerning the time. I request the recall of Magsoud and Swabini for re-questioning."
The Governor General, Head of the Investigation Committee replied: "It appears from your statement that you refuse even a response to your servant's confession on the pretence that he gave his confession under pressure in prison. I remind you that the arrest of your servant and his detention for questioning did not take place until after Murad Al-Fattal's confession regarding you. And that on the night before the arrest of the Harari's you were spending the evening with them. During which time Murad called on you and you went to visit him after leaving the Hararis. You sent your servant back to the Harari's house to dismiss their worries, and to inform them on your behalf not to be worried because there was nothing to worry about. Your servant was called for questioning regarding this confession and he has confirmed its validity. Then he was questioned again about the time of your visit to Maqsoud's. We separated him in order to confront you and continue the investigation without prejudice. In addition to that we learned that there were two well known Syrian merchants who saw you when you went to spend the evening at the Maqsoud's. We called both of them yesterday and obtained their statements as witnesses which we will now read to you so that you may be informed of the two witness statements. However, regarding your request that we recall Magsoud and Swabini for re-questioning them, we have no objection to that. Also we will call the two witnesses: Hanna Boulad and Ibrahim Ghorrah, so that you may hear their statements as they are written in their report.
The Investigation Committee called the above mentioned witnesses as requested by Isaac Picciotto for re-questioning. The Investigator started the questioning of Magsoud. He asked him in the presence of Swabini:
A. I was not carrying a watch, and do not know the exact time when Picciotto arrived. The English Consul asked me fifteen days ago about the time and I told him that Picciotto arrived about two thirds of an hour after sunset call to prayer. I did not know that his arrival time would be so important, so I did not try to obtain the exact time. It also happened that I met Hanna Fraih at Asa'd Pasha Inn on Wednesday, Muharram 14, 1256 H. and he told me that there were four reliable witnesses who will confirm that they saw Isaac Picciotto coming to your house before the Isha call to prayer, including Ibrahim Ghorrah. Afterward I went to the market-place where I met Yusuf Ayrouth. He said to me that Hanna Fraih had told him what I have mentioned earlier. I told him that I already knew what he was saying. This indicated to me, from the conversation with Fraih and Ayrouth that they wanted to support his witness.
The Investigator ask Swabini about his previous statement. He replied, "Isaac Picciotto arrived at the house of Khawaja Maqsoud between and . When I went to Sola's house to invite him the time was close to ."
Isaac Picciotto replied, "I answered as to what has been related in my servant confession. But what is related to the witness of Baulad and Ghorrah I say that they has certain intentions against the Jews in general, i.e., to execute them. This is well known and widely spread, I think by both the Honorable
Khedivate and the Military Intellegence Administration. It is within the capability of the responsible guardians (the rulers), with their far-sighted outlook and deep thinking, to distinguish the truthfulness or falsehood of the statements of those ahawajas."
The Governor General, Head of the Investigation Committee replied: "You spent the evening of the incident in the Christian neighborhood (Quarter). Those who gave their witness (statements) mentioned earlier, regarding the time of your crossing, saw you them. Now you are attacking their statements. You say that their intention is to execute the Jews. That this intention is well known to the Honorable Khedivate and the Military Intelligence
Administration. And I say to you, "that the Honorable Khedivate and the Military Intelligence Administration have no knowledge regarding this matter. You must explain this to us so that we can look into it. But, you should also remember that there are some Jews who have given their testimony against you. Among those are Murad Al-Fattal (the servant of David Harari, Muallim Aslan Farhi The have given testimony on the subject of the murder of the servant of Priest Thomas. In addition Khawaja Maqsoud gave his testimony which you have refused to acknowledge. All of these witnesses are from your own people of the Jewish faith, well as those of the Christian faith. Give us the names of those who are acceptable as witnesses, those whom you wish to take the witness stand on your behalf."
Picciotto answered: "The fact that His Excellency, the Investigator, our Gentleman wants a reply to my statement of objection which relates to the accusation regarding enemies to the Jews makes it apparent that there is hostility towards me. I thought that the Highly Honorable Khedivate and the Highly Honorable Military Intelligence Administration were aware of this hostility as well as its purpose. It does not matter whether my belief is true or not. The fact is that this is what I think. As to the confessions of the Jews from my own religion, and the confessions of the Christians, I reject both of their confessions. I have stated earlier regarding the testimony of Muallim Aslan as it appeared in the investigation report on Thursday, Muharram 15, 1256 H. I have already replied to the statement given thirty days after the detention by Murad, the servant of David Harari, that his testimony is subject to a lapse of memory and a fear of severe beating or torture. These reasons caused him to accuse me falsely. As I recall in his first report he stated that he saw me with Murad Farhi when he went to is house to warn him. He also stated that he saw me the next day, which was Thursday, at in the morning (Arabic Time) at the home of his master David Harari. He stated that with us were, Aslan Farhi, Murad Farhi, Aaron Islambouli, and Yehya Farhi. This negates the facts because I have witnesses who can confirm a time schedule for all of my activities from Wednesday on through Thursday . In addition to that Aslan Farhi met with Murad, the Harari's servant, in the Diwan of His Excellency the Governor, and disputed his lies in regard to Aslan Farhi being at David Harari's house. These facts dispute and expose the servant's false statements. If Aslan Farhi had actually been present at the Harari's house on Thursday he had no reason to deny it. And after these two reports by the servant Murad against us, another ten days lapsed before he gave his last report in which he stated that we were in Yehya Farhi's house, and that we attended the slaying of Priest Thomas' servant. I think this confession was made as a result of fear of being beaten and tortured. If he has not been imprisoned he would not have changed his testimony. As to the testimony of the Christians, we have proof of the time of our arrival which was before , about the time of the Isha call to prayer. They have testified that they saw us at . This confirms to us their bad intention and it exposes their purpose.
The Austrian Consul sent a message to the Investigation Committee regarding Isaac Picciotto.
The reply to the Consul from the Investigation Committee was as follows:
We have received your message on the 16th of Murharram 1256 H. which contained notification regarding the return of Isaac Picciotto to the Consulate, in the company of Khawaja Yusuf Zananiri, carrying with them a copy of the questions and answers. And your acknowledgement regarding the arrival of our report to you regarding the departure of Isaac Picciotto before he completed the investigation, for which he was sent. In your report you stated that you sent Isaac Picciotto to us to complete the investigation. And that you understand from the report that the servant of Khawaja Isaac Picciotto, Yehya Biziti, has been arrested and detained without your knowledge.
First. On the subject of a copy of questions and answers, which you mentioned as arriving with Isaac Picciotto and Yusuf Zananiri, we would like to inform you that we did not sent them to your Excellency. Khawaja Zananiri took them without your knowledge. Second. On the subject of Isaac Picciotto, he came after an exchange of a number of questions and answers to him. We requested from our Turkish Clerk to prepare a message which Bahri Bey, a member of the Investigation Committee, was trusted to translate into the Arabic language. Suddenly, Isaac Picciotto created an artificial act of disagreement with Bahri Bey and said to him: "Are you the decision maker or the Pasha?" Then Bahri Bey refused to write because Picciotto had insulted him in and inappropriate manner. We were forced to delay our message to you until the tension and emotions created by this incident had been cleared up. We then sent Picciotto back to you. We do not know the reasons for Picciotto's argumentative behavior, whether he was acting on his own or with your permission. We hope to receive a response in this regard from you. Third. As to the arrest of Isaac Picciotto's servant and his detention without your knowledge. We would like to remind you of the contents of your message dated the 18th of Zul-Hijjah, 1255 H. which was as follows:
you to bring every suspected person in the case of the slaying of the Priest,
Thomas Al-Capuci, and his servant from this date
forward, including those Jews who enjoy the protection of
Please be Informed
His Excellency, the Governor General, went to the Jewish Quarter accompanied by Ali Afandi, Commander of the Cavalry Artillery Brigade, with the Governor of Syria, Ali Agha Tofunkgy. He also took with him some of his lower ranking officers, and Aslan Frhi and Murad Al-Fattal, the servant of David Harari. The last two were separated from each other. Upon the arrival of His Excellency at Meyer Farhi's house, he first called Muallin Aslan Farhi and questioned him regarding the place. He confessed saying that: "When Murad, the servant, came and spoke with Meyer Farhi we were standing in front of the door of the house. One on each side of the door. After that we went inside the house." His Excellency asked Aslan where the servant had been slain, and how he was placed in the diwan or the reception hall? Aslan pointed to the divan where the slaying had been performed. He explained how the servant of Priest Thomas was put down, flat on the floor, at the edge of the diwan; how he had been slain. He said that he (Aslan) was standing at the servant's feet, and held one of the servant's feet when they slew him. After he completed his statements, the Governor order him back to his detention place, and called the servant Murad Al-Fattal. His testimony was exactly as that which had been given by Aslan. This was the same as their previously recorded testimony.
Monday, Muharram 20, 1256 H.
After the Governor General, Sharif Pasha, completed his investigation he directed that the following message be sent to Khawaja Isaac Picciotto. It was as follows:
First. You have said that you found in the court a deliberate hostility toward you. However, you did not explain the type of these hostile actions, and you have not identified those who took this stand against you. Therefore, now you must explain this because the questions which I have directed to you contain the essence of this case.
Second. You say that you have responded to Aslan Farhi's confession and to his testimony against you, but your recorded answers do not negate his testimony. Therefore, this is the reason to preserve and present his testimony to be used at the appropriate time.
Third. You have said that the report of the servant Murad Al-Fattal was given thirty days after his detention, as a result of his beating and torture; that the accusations he has directed against you are false. But the truth is that he came to the court at the beginning of the investigation. He was questioned about the nature of the task requested of him by his master which was the calling of the Barber. He gave his testimony willingly without any threat, imprisonment or torture. The contents of his testimony matched exactly the testimony by the Barber. After this he was released. He was recalled for the second time regarding where he went after informing the Barber. It so happened that his master, Rofael Farhi, was also present at the Diwan on some type of business not related to this case.
For this then he denied his first confession which caused him to be flogged. We then learned that his master looked at him with contempt, so for this he then decided to deny his first testimony. He then re-confessed as to the truth of his first testimony. He discerned a look of threat in the eyes of his master which made him fear that his master might kill him in the alley, if he confessed to the truth. He was again beaten for this reason. Since then he has not been an object of disturbance of harm. You have further stated that his confession was thirty days after the slaying. The reason for this delay was because at the beginning of the trial I was concentrating my efforts in an attempt to discover all the details of Priest Thomas' slaying. At that time it was necessary to use the investigation process in the case of his servant's slaying. After I had finished with Priest Thomas' case, I then undertook the investigation of the servant's case. When Murad Al-Fattal was asked what he knew about his case he accused you as you already know. You claim that there is a contradiction between what he has said about Aslan's presence at the Harari's house in the company of others on the second day, a day after the slaying of Priest Thomas, and to what Aslan reported of this matter, and that he denied being at that meeting. I see that they are both in agreement regarding the details of the servant's slaying at Meyer Farhi's house, in which you participated with the rest of the killers, because you held one of the servant's feet while Aslan held the other. The contradiction of Aslan's presence on the second day of the crime does not negate their statement that you participated in the killing of the servant. If you accept Aslan's testimony, you must also accept all of it and not just what is suitable to you while refuting that which is not in your best interest.
Fourth. You have objected to the statement of the two witnesses, calling their statements false and perjury. You yourself have established in your confession on Friday, 3rd of Muharram, 1256 H., as to how you spent the time between Thursday and Friday . It would appear from the contents of this confession that you were at George Maqsoud's house, on the evening of the Priest slaying before the Isha call to prayer, and that Maqsoud has supported your statement in his testimony. You have clung to this testimony saying that it has more of the truth than the testimonies of Swabini and that of your servant. I have called both, Mr. Ghorrah and Mr. Bould who have both stated that they met you that same evening in the Koukas Alley, while you were on your way to Maqsoud's house, about (two hours after the sunset call to prayer.). These two persons are more trustworthy than Maqsoud for well known reasons.1 In accordance with your own wishes, I have called the above mentioned person and have arranged a meeting with Swabini. He confessed, as stated in the report, that Fraih and Ayrouth forced him to falsify his testimony. This contradiction has
1 George Maqsoud had earlier experienced a nervous breakdown; he did not recover his mental faculty completely. It is not known if the confusion in his testimony was due to lapse of memory or from bad faith.
caused me to cancel his two testimonies, the first and the second. Since it has become clear from the testimony of two trustworthy persons that you went to Maqsoud's house at two o'clock at night, it appears from the testimonies of Aslan and Murad that the killing of the Priest's servant took place between sunset and Isha, and that you were among the killers, and that you participated with them in the crime. Therefore, you insistence on your presence at Maqsoud's house does not clear you from these accusations. You claim to have arrived at Maqsoud's house one hour before dark, and you have concluded from this claim that the testimonies of Ghorrah and Boulad are false. Your reasoning for this is clear because if you accepted their testimony you would incriminate yourself.
Thursday, Muharram 23, 1256 H.
The Investigation Committee called the accused Isaac Picciotto the Office of the Governor General His Excellency Sharif Pasha, to give him the content of the memorandum which was addressed to him earlier in response to his behavior and the accusations against him.
Picciotto replied to these accusations by stating, "I absolutely have no knowledge regarding the details of the murder of Father Thomas and his servant. I have no knowledge at all regarding the false accusations and perjury against me. You have requested me to explain the source and type of false accusations against me and the explanation is in the hands of my superiors. I also consider my reply to Aslan sufficient. My superiors are capable of judging the truthfulness of this accusation or its falsehood. They also have the ability to look into Murad Al-Fattal accusations, as to their value, because these accusations came as a result of torture. As to the contradictions between the testimonies of Aslan Farhi and Murad Al-Fattal regarding the absence of Aslan on Thursday, the morning following Father Thomas slaying, in spite of the servant's statement, His Excellency, the Governor General has said that, "If I accept the testimony of Aslan Farhi, I must accept the entire testimony." But those who forced Aslan to accuse me forgot to match his testimony with the testimony of the servant, Murad Al-Fattal, in which these false statements and the hostility against me was disclosed. It is up to my superiors who are capable and insightful enough to expose the shameful plot arranged against me, in which I have no relation to the case at all. The Governor General has also said that he wishes to cancel George Maqsoud's testimony due to the fact that when he came on Saturday to give his testimony he claimed that Fraih and Ayrauth forced him to lie in his first testimony. After Magsoud gave his testimony in the presence of the English Consul, about twenty days earlier, he gave it as the truth. As to the statement of Fraih and Ayrouth, it is of no concern to me. My superiors are able to distinguish between the two testimonies. And if my presence at Maqsoud's house does not negate the accusation made against me, the matter does not concern me very much. Because the truth is that on that evening I was at Maqsoud's house an hour after dark, and God is witness to this truth. As to the rest of the accusations, they are all based an antagonistic collaborations against me and my superiors are not unaware of the proof of that. It is not possible for the Austrian Government to allow one of their subjects (God Forbid) to fall victim to antagonism and false accusations. As far as I am concerned, I have no knowledge at all of that of which I am accused. All of it is false and lies. I trust God to help me to uncover the truth."
The Governor General replied: "I have limited my questions to the subject of the slaying of Father Thomas' servant, and have not mentioned the case of Father Thomas. You must respond to the murder of the servant. You claim that all of those who have accused you have committed perjury. I answer you by saying that, just to say this, without any support, is not sufficient to clear you from the accusations against you. You must establish the facts which show perjury. You also claim that the accusation against you by Aslan Farhi is not of him, that it is the work of others, those who pressured him to commit this perjury. We cannot accept this as it is based only on your claims. You must name those who forced him so that I may be able to take appropriate action against them." Isaac Picciotto replied: "Your Excellency has said that your questions were limited to the case of the slaying of Father Thomas' servant, and that you did not mention Father Thomas. I answered according to what concerns both cases. My reason for this is that Murad Al-Fattal claimed in his testimony that I also knew of the murder of Father Thomas. Since I am ignorant of the circumstances in both crimes, I have answered that I have no knowledge of either case. Your Excellency also said that my statement that the accusations are perjury is unsupported and not acceptable, that I must verify what I reply to this by saying that I have already established detailed information of how I spent my time between Wednesday and Thursday noon, when Father Thomas disappeared. Since I am ignorant of the facts that the crime took place at that time I have no other person to testify regarding the time I went to Maqsoud's house. My superiors will no doubt look with keen and sharp eyes into the truthfulness of Maqsoud's testimony and the other witnesses. As for your Excellency's statement that I must name those persons who made Aslan testify against me, and that it is not enough for me to claim that the accusations are false; I reply that Aslan's accusations are the main concern of my superiors, since they are more capable than I, and more qualified to distinguish between the truthfulness and falsehood of his statements."
The Governor General responded by saying, "When the servant of David Harari insisted that you had knowledge of the murder of Father Thomas, you replied that you. had no knowledge of his case or of his servant's case. The servant has not accused you of Father Thomas' murder. I have not asked you about it either, but have limited my questions to the murder of Father Thomas's servant. And since you have answered that you have no knowledge of the two cases, I am justified in my conclusion that you intended to deny everything. As to the accusations directed against you, you have mentioned how you spent the time between Wednesday and Thursday , and you claimed that your story is true, that you have no knowledge about the crimes which were committed, thus you have no one to back up your testimony other than the residents of the house. This response to my questions is not sufficient. It does not contain what is needed to clear the accusations against you, because you are not able to establish you presence at that house at the time of the slaying of Father Thomas' servant. Also you cannot refute the testimonies against you except with Maqsoud's first testimony, in which he stated that he was not wearing a watch and did not know the exact time. Therefore, his testimony is weak. In addition to the facts, there were other trustworthy and reliable persons who refute and negate Maqusoud's statement. You requested that Maqsoud be brought for further questioning, and when we questioned him he uttered what was a negation to his first testimony. It now becomes clear that none of your answers are sound or based on truth. Now you are saying that your superiors are better qualified than you to distinguish between the truthfulness and falseness of these testimonies. You are aware of the fact that your superiors were not present for questioning; therefore, they cannot distinguish between the truthfulness and falseness of the testimony in question. The investigation of this case is now in my hands. The judges know the value of Maqsoud's testimony. I see that in all you answers you expect your superiors to answer the questions which are directed to you. If you have a purpose or an aim in doing this, please explain it frankly to us."
Isaac Picciotto responded:
"Your Excellency has said that you did not ask me about the slaying of Father Thomas, and that no one had accused me of it, and that I want to clear myself of both crimes, even though the servant of David Harari first accused me when he said that he went on his master's order for something related to the slaying of Father Thomas and he found me there. And that he found me there on the following morning, Thursday, in his master's house. The first time in which I was met with your Excellency was related to the slaying of Father Thomas. At that time I told the truth when I said that I had no knowledge of this matter, and all accusations against me were simply false. I was not present that evening at Murad Farhi's house, and I did not go to David Harari's house the next morning. Whatever other that this which has been said is false; there is not a single word of truth to it. Your Excellency also said that I was not able to give sufficient explanations regarding the time spent between Wednesday and Thursday noon, the time of Father Thomas' disappearance, although I have substantiated this in detail in my report of Friday, Muharram 3, 1256 H. There is no reason to re-state it. As to Your Excellency's statement that Maqsoud's testimony in non-valid, I reply that this matter is not my concern because my superiors, who will question me will know very well the value of this testimony. Your Excellency has said that I refer all the questions to my superiors which are addressed to me in spite the fact that the final judgment is with them, in spite of their absence. They will rely on their own judgment of the oral report and the reports by their agents who are present. Their court has the final word and custody over me".
The Governor General responded to these statements as follows: "Your answers to my previous questions, especially those concerning the slaying of Father Thomas, and your response on Friday the third of Muharram in which you state that the accusation against you are not sufficient evidence. You have also made observations and objections to the investigation which I conducted on Sunday, Muharram 19, 1256 H. The observations and objections are attached to the oral report. There is sufficient evidence to convict you of the crime. I have called you to provide answers to some of my observations so that you may hear some of the excuses and evidence which you claim are proof that you are not guilty. After you have seen my report, I shall send it to your superiors immediately. You have refused to provide answers to these observations, and have given answers which you know to be unrelated answers, that have no bearing on the case. I see it as my duty to attempt to make you understand the seriousness of the evidence against you."
At this point the Governor General handed Picciotto the Report of the Investigation, which had been conducted at the scene of the crime, so that he could read it for himself. Picciotto's response was: "Your Excellency says that the proofs are sufficient. It is not my prerogative, but it is the prerogative of my superiors, to judge whether they are sufficient or not. As far as the testimonies given by Aslan Farhi, and that of the servant Murad Al-Fattal, they are all lies and perjury. I think that their testimony do not apply to Austrian subjects. He who has the authority has the will too."1
Friday, Muharram 24, 1256 H.
The questioning of Meyer Farhi who was not arrested until the evening of Friday, Muharram 24, 1256 H followed the cross examination of Picciotto.
The Governor General: "Tell us, clearly, what happened in your house to the servant of Father Thomas, Ibrahim Amarah. This question is being addressed to you because it has been established by the testimonies of Aslan Farhi and Murad Al-Fattal who were with you; their testimonies were identical. Now tell us the truth so that you may save yourself the prospect of a beating."
Meyer Farhi answered, "I have no knowledge of this matter at all. All I know is that on Friday, I bought a bundle of pearls from Francis Faroun. He told me about the disappearance of Father Thomas and his servant. That is all I know about the case."
The Governor General responded, "What would be your answer if we were to bring Aslan Farhi and Murad Al-Fattal, the Harari's servant, and they testify in your presence against you?" He answered by replying, "I would say that they are crazy and have lost the
1 The uproar of this crime
spread all over
faculty of sound mind required for thinking."
Then Murad Al-Fattal was brought in and was informed of Meyer Farhi's denial. The Governor General told him, "Meyer Farhi says that you are crazy and a liar. What is your reply to him?"
Murad Al-Fattal replied, "If the events had not occurred as I have explained, I would have changed my testimony during the forty days I spent in jail. The one who is crazy is the one who changes his testimony frequently. This is proof that I am not crazy."
Murad Al-Fattal then began by re-relating the details of the crime as they have developed, in front of Meyer Farhi, until he reached the point when he said, "My master sent me to the homes of Murad Farhi, Aaron Islambouli, and to your home. When I arrived at your house I saw you with Aslan Farhi. He was reclined against the right post and you were against the left post." At this point Meyer Farhi interrupted him by saying, "Where? On the door?" Murad Al-Fattal replied, "Yes sir."
Meyer Farhi realized that his question indicates that Murad Al-Fattal was telling the truth. Murad Al-Fattal continued his detailed description of the crime as it had happened. When he reached the subject of the blood he said that he picked up a vessel called Bousah in Hebrew. Afterward the blood was transferred to a bottle. Meyer Farhi interrupted him by objecting, "Perhaps you are one of those knowledgeable of the secrets of the religion. If you know all of these matters, then perhaps nothing is hidden from you."
The Governor General then asked Meyer Farhi, "Who other than you would be entrusted these kinds of religious secrets?" He answered, "This man is not of the class to whom such secrets are trusted. He would not know about the murder of Father Thomas and his servant."
After this Aslan Farhi was brought in and he gave his testimony in the presence of Meyer Farhi who reacted thusly, "The Judgment and the Divine Decree are in the hands of those with Absolute Power. As for myself, I do not know anything about these matters."
The Governor General said, "I see that you have no respect for the statements of the servant Murad Al-Fattal. You take them very lightly. If you do not value his statements then respond to the testimony of Aslan Farhi, whose statement was identical to that of Murad Al-Fattal, which you have just heard." He responded, "I have no knowledge of all this, and I am completely ignorant of it." The Governor General replied by saying, "Let us assume that you did not murder Father Thomas' servant, and that you do not know anything about the crime. Now, tell us where you were at the time of sunset on Wednesday, and Friday." He replied, "Those are Prayer Times. I was in the Synagogue."
The Governor General then asked, "Who was/were nearby you in the Synagogue?" To this he responded, "I do not remember."
The Governor General persisted in his questioning, while all the time Meyer Farhi refused to answer. Finally he said. "If you mentioned a person as being present and that person says that he was not present, what would be the result?" The Governor General's reply to that was, "Let us suppose, for the moment, that what Aslan Farhi and Murad Al-Fattal have said are false, and that they have perjured themselves; and all of our investigation is based on false statements while you alone are telling the truth. The least you can do is to tell us where you were at that hour, and who you were with. Is that too much to ask of you?"
However, Meyer Farhi still clung firmly to his first answers. The Governor General resumed by stating. "If I were in your place, I would certainly remembered the person who were praying with me on Friday, even if two or three weeks had passed. Even if it had not crossed my mind at the time that I would be asked about it later as you are. How is it that you do not try to remember who was with you., in order to clear yourself of the accusations which cast doubts and suspicions regarding your involvement in this crime. Were you not aware that you would be asked about the crime? If what you say is true, undoubtedly you would have remembered those persons. Since you do not, therefore the accusation against you will be considered as true."
Meyer Farhi answered, "I have said that I do not remember even though Rofael Douk and Moussa Abou Al-Afieh saw me at the Synagogue."
The response by the Governor General to this was, "If I now call these two men and asked them, and if they do not agree with that you have said, and if they declare frankly tilt they did not go on that day to the Synagogue, how will you respond to that?" Meyer Farhi said, "Probably they have forgotten, or they did not pay attention regarding my presence."
The Governor General continued, "On what side of the Synagogue were you at that time? Were you on the east, west, north or south side of the Synagogue?" He responded, "I do not remember where I was."
The Investigator then called Rofael Douk and asked him, "Is it your habit to attend the Synagogue every evening?" Rofael Douk answered, "I depends on my work. If I am late in leaving my place of work I do not go. Also, I do not go if it is necessary for me to go to my shop early which happens to me two or three times in a week." The Governor General asked, "Were you at the Synagogue the evening of the disappearance of Father Thomas?" He replied, "Due to a death in the family Joseph Lifyado did not leave his house that day. So I went to his home that evening to console him for the death of his daughter. Due to the death I remember the sunset call to prayer as I was in the Western Quarters at that time. When I arrived at Joseph's house I found Metta Kibreet and another person from Rashayya with him. We said our prayers in his home, under the balcony. I stayed with him until about the time for the Isha call to prayer I then returned to my house, drank coffee, smoked Navgileh, and stayed home in order to rest."
After this, the Investigator called Rabbi Moussa Abou Al-Afieh who had converted to Islam and had taken the Muslim name of Mohammad Afandi Al-Muslimani for himself. The Investigator asked him, "Was it your habit to go to the Synagogue every evening before you become a Muslim or did you pray at home?"
Al-Afieh replied, "Usually I prayed at the
Synagogue which is as the Ifrange (French) Synagogue.
Sometimes I pray at home or at the
The Governor General then stated, "It had been said of you that you were at the Synagogue on the day Father Thomas disappeared." He responded, "I was not at the Synagogue that evening. However, I was at the house of David Harari." He replied, "Sunset, or a quarter of an hour after the sunset call to prayer."
Meyer Farhi was then brought in and asked how he would reply to the statements of these witnesses. He answered, "I do not remember the persons who were at the Synagogue." The Governor General responded by asking, "How is it then that you have said that these two men were at the Synagogue when they both testified that they did not go to the Synagogue, nor did they see you there?" Farhi answered, "I thought they went and that they saw me. That is why I mentioned them. Perhaps they did not go. What should I say." The Governor replied, "You claim that you are ignorant about this case, and that you were not at home when it happened; now tell us where you were?"
Meyer Farhi answered, "I do not remember. I am unable to remember from one day to the next."
Meyer Farhi was detained for investigation. And on the following day, which was Monday, Muharram 27, 1256 H., the Governor General called him and requested his answer as to his whereabouts on the evening of Father Thomas' servant disappearance. He continued to insist on his stand while denying all knowledge of the crime. Yet he was unable to say where he was at the time of the crime. At this point in the hearing of those who were denying and those who had confessed, the Governor General, Sharif Pasha found it sufficient for him to issue a memorandum for the indictment of Isaac Picciotto. The investigation proceeded by calling others in the case.
The Investigation Record of the 28th of Muharram, 1256 H. (from Wednesday to the night of Thursday).
The Investigator started by asking David Harari,
Q. Where were the Priest's watch and keys kept?
A. I saw Moussa Salayankli taking the watch, but I do not know anything about the keys.
The Investigator asked the Barber, Soliman Saloom the same question, and his answer was, "Those who stripped the Priest of his clothes were David Harari and his brothers;; the rest were standing by. For myself, I did not come near until he was undressed."
The Investigator addressed David Harari as follows, "You and your brothers stripped the Priest of his clothing according to the confession of the Barber, Soliman Saloom. Therefore, his watch and keys must be with you."
David Harari responded, "The seven men were standing by also. The watch is with the Salaniki."
The Investigation Committee called Moussa Salaniki to inquire of him, in the presence of David Harari, regarding the watch. David Harari addressed Moussa by saying, "I saw the watch with him (pointing toward Moussa)."
The Investigator asked Moussa, "Do you have the watch?"
David Harari said to him: «Aren't you who took the watch and blood? Aren't you who gave the blood to Moussa abou-Al-Afia, and the watch remained with you?
Moussa answered: «I did not see anything, and I don't know anything..». Then it was said to him: Master Moussa, there is a collection of confessions against you, and you are one of those who took part in this operation, they gave evidence against you, and you are still insisting on denial. Just bring us two witnesses only to tell us where you have been when the incident happened».
Moussa answered: «I was at home, and my family testifies to my whereabouts; and I have got no other witnesses.
The investigator said: «This is not enough». Moussa answered: «I haven't got any one else».
Then the investigator directed his question to David Harari: «Did you give him the watch, or he took it by himself»? David answered: «When Father Thomas was undressed, Moussa stepped forward and took the watch. But I did not see the keys with him, and may be they might have been in his hands, but I didn't see them». The investigator asked: «You have mentioned that the other seven were standing during the time when the Priest's clothing were being removed. Did only you alone see your brothers when they performed the work, or did the others give you a helping hand in the removal of his clothes?»
David answered, "We were all, the seven of us, working together in the removal of his clothes. We took turns, some of us stood by while the others did the work, and so forth."
Investigation Report of Thursday, the 29th
of Muharram, 1256 H.
Isaac Harari and his brother David were brought for questioning. Isaac was asked about the watch and where it was being kept. He responded, "It was with Moussa Salaniki."
The Investigator said, "How was it being kept with Moussa Salaniki?"
He answered, "He reached with his hand for the watch and took it."
The Investigator then asked, "At what time did he take the watch?"
Isaac answered, "After we completed removing the Priest's clothes."
Moussa Salaniki was recalled and asked about the watch. He insisted on his previous position of denial saying, "I did not see it." He was then told that "This is David Harari, and his brother Isaac Harari. They have both testified that you are the one who took the watch."
Moussa replied, "They are lying." The Investigator said, "They swear by their own religion that you took it."