Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

St Andrews students accused of Israel flag racism

Chanan Reitblat
Image caption Chanan Reitblat told the court said felt "violated and devastated"

Two St Andrews University students committed a racist breach of the peace by insulting the flag of Israel, a court has heard.

Chanan Reitblat, a Jewish student, said Samuel Colchester, 20, and Paul Donnachie,18, called him a terrorist during the incident on 12 March 2011.

He told Cupar Sheriff Court how the pair entered the halls at 01:30 to see another student who shared the flat.

Mr Colchester and Mr Donnachie, deny the charges.

They are accused of acting in a racially aggravated manner intended to cause alarm or distress to Mr Reitblat by placing their hands on their genitals before rubbing them on the Israeli national flag while making comments of an offensive nature.

They also deny an alternative charge which alleges they behaved in a threatening or abusive manner likely to cause a reasonable person fear or alarm.

Mr Reitblat, a chemistry student at St Andrews on a one-term exchange from the Jewish Yeshiva University in New York, said he felt "violated and devastated" by the incident.

Mr Reitblat, 21, now shortly to enter Harvard, said he had the 4ft by 3ft (1.2m by 0.9m) flag on the wall of his flat after being given it by his brother, an Israeli Defence Forces soldier.

He said he knew Mr Colchester and Mr Donnachie "vaguely" and they were aware he was Jewish.

He said: "They were extremely drunk and smelled of alcohol, falling over a lot as they walked in.

"Paul noticed that I had a flag, at which point he said Israel was a terrorist state and the flag was a terrorist symbol.

"They both then unbuttoned their trousers.

"Paul put his hands down his pants, pulled off a pubic hair and rubbed it over my flag. Sam did the same thing.

"Sam started urinating in my sink. He asked me if I wanted him to jump on me. I said no, but he did it anyway."

'Nazi, fascist'

Mr Reitblat added: "They were in my room for just a few minutes, it happened very fast.

"Down the stairs I could hear them shouting 'Nazi, fascist, and terrorist'.

"I was trying to collect my thoughts. I was deeply disturbed, humiliated, shocked, and violated.

"It caused me a lot of anxiety. I feared for my safety. I couldn't eat and I couldn't sleep, so I couldn't study."

He said the next day he saw messages on Facebook from Mr Donnachie, including one saying there was a Zionist in his hall.

Mr Reitblat, who flew from New York to give evidence, said he struggled at his exams afterwards, viewed his term at St Andrews as "a flop", and stopped feeling safe at the institution.

He went to stay with a friend in Glasgow before going to St Andrews police station, accompanied by a friend from the Jewish society at the university, to report the alleged incident.

The summary trial, before Sheriff Charlie Macnair, sitting without a jury, continues.

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