ContentsNewsnight (The Night Before Jesus Died) - without the interview with the High Priest's servant and extending the interview with the Pharisee. It has the same essential purpose to get across some of the information about Jesus' trial - in particular the irregularities that rendered it little more than a kangaroo court. When we wrote this there was probably some topical political reference that is now completely lost. If memory serves Michael Howard was Home Secretary at the time and had just been found to have acted illegally over a sentencing issue - which is probably explains the name of the member of the Sanhedrin in the sketch! It would definitely be worth changing the name to something more relevant at the time.
Howardim: Well there are a number of reasons, he has been inciting dissent for some time now, but first and foremost - the man is a blasphemer and quite clearly therefore - evil.
Jane: So how exactly has this evil man spread dissent - by preaching a message of love and healing people?
Howardim: He is a trickster and a charlatan who is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the common people. Well it won't work. This Jesus opposes taxes and claims to be the Messiah King - directly challenging Rome and Caesar.
Jane: From what I hear Jesus was stirring up trouble for your government not the Romans! Besides, surely you would be united with Jesus against the punitive Roman taxes!
Howardim: Let me stop you there. I would like to give my wholehearted support to Caesar's government and say that we in the Sanhedrin would not want to see Caesar undermined in any way. We have a responsibility to keep the status quo, keep the peace, I mean for our safety. All our safety. Stirring up trouble doesn't help anyone.
Jane: I understand that the Jerusalem Times has got hold of some minutes of a meeting held about 3 months ago in which the Sanhedrin discussed the removal of Jesus of Nazareth - by force if necessary. Isn't that illegal?
Howardim: Let me answer that question by answering a totally different question. I think the issue at stake is who leaked that document in the first place? But, in any case, I think you are missing the point the man is a blasphemer and troublemaker and must be stopped before he can do any damage to our sensitive relations with Rome.
Jane: And thatís why he's been arrested?
Jane: If I can move onto his trial. I understand it was at night and was convened at the High Priests house - not at the Great Assembly Hall. Is that correct?
Jane: Additionally it was called without the legal minimum notice period for an Emergency General Meeting, correct?
Howardim: Yes, I don't quite see the relevance...
Jane: Aren't these actions illegal? Shouldn't you resign?
Howardim: This is of course a highly unique individual case so it would be wrong to generalise, under normal circumstances things would be different, but obviously this was an emergency. I'm not the first Home Secretary to be accused of acting illegally, none of the others have resigned why should I?
Jane: But if I can refer back to the leaked memo you have been considering this action for some time, so how does it constitute "an emergency"?
Howardim: As with all these things they never happen according to plan and we felt that the seriousness of the situation meant an emergency Session of the Sanhedrin High Court should be called - at great inconvienience to the Members I might add. Most of us I'm sure would have rather been tucked up in bed than trying to find witnesses to help us convict Jesus of Nazareth.
Jane: I'm sorry? You were trying to find witnesses against him?
Howardim: Er yes. I mean no. I mean we were trying to locate the witnesses who had previously offered to give evidence.
Jane: And what was that evidence.
Howardim: A variety of accusations covering a wide range of crimes from minor Sabbath misdeameanours to major crimes such as calling for the destruction of the Temple.
Jane: I find that hard to believe, quite frankly.
Howardim: So did we, unfortunately, the witnesses could get their story straight. I mean there were a few minor discrepancies in their testimony. But, it makes no difference we heard the man's blasphemy first hand ourselves.
Jane: Why the secrecy and urgency - Jesus has been preaching unhindered in the Temple courts all day he seems to pose little real threat - yet you rushed through legal proceedings against him in a very unorthodox, if not highly illegal, manner! You seem desperate to get rid of him! Apparently for no other reason than the fact that he is more popular than you and criticising your party's position.
Howardim: No not at all. Party political issues are not applicable here. Both sides of the house, Pharisees and Sadducess alike were united. It is in just such matters of national security that party politics can be laid aside and we can forge a new common strategy together
Jane: I have to say I am surprised both sides of the house were in agreement.
Howardim: Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Jane: Indeed! So do desperate times also mean that convicted criminals can, quite literally, get away with murder. I refer, of course to Barabas who has escaped justice and is now out on the streets.
Howardim: Yes. It's a triumph for our policy on judicial reform. A full remission for the prisoner which was initiated by the tide of public opinion which is a victory for democracy. Incidently the public were in total agreement about Pilate's decision to execute Jesus. People like to be involved in these important decisions.
Jane: That's all we have time for. Thank you: The Rt. Hon. Michael Howardim.
Howardim: Thank you.
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