Israeli court convicts two teens in 2014 killing of 16-year-old Palestinian

  • By Batsheva Sobelman Los Angeles Times JERUSALEM - A Jerusalem court Monday found two Jewish teenagers guilty of murder and delayed
  • Monday, November 30, 2015 1:29pm
  • Local NewsNation / world

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted in the early hours of July 2, 2014, while heading to the mosque for morning prayers in Shuafat, his village. The family alerted the police after witnesses saw him being taken. Several hours later, his charred body was found in a wooded area west of Jerusalem. He had been beaten and burned alive.

The three Jewish suspects were arrested several days later. Prosecutors said they confessed to involvement in the teen’s death to avenge the slaying of three Jewish teenagers who were abducted in the West Bank by Palestinians two weeks earlier.

In keeping with Israeli law, the two 18-year-olds convicted were not named because the crime took place and the trial began when they were minors. The court is expected to finalize their convictions in the near future after an additional procedural review required in the case of minors.

The court ruling held that all three of the accused committed the abduction, beating and murder of Abu Khdeir. However, the verdict in the case of Yossef Haim Ben-David, 31, described in court as the main instigator of the crime, was delayed after the defense submitted a last-minute psychiatric opinion arguing he was not fit to stand trial.

Ben-David had been declared fit to stand trial by a government-appointed district psychiatrist. Despite documented treatment for a psychiatric condition, the suspect led a functional personal and professional life and understood his actions well, the psychiatrist said.

Despite obvious displeasure with Ben-David’s counsel over the last-minute submission after the ruling had been written, the court said it would review the English document upon translation and pick up Ben-David’s case in three weeks.

Entering the court before the ruling, Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s father, expressed concern to reporters that the judges might clear the suspects. “They could say they’re crazy,” he said, adding that he and his wife had not slept at all the night before.

As legal experts labored to explain judiciary nuances, the father later slammed the ruling that seemed to echo his earlier concerns. “After a year and a half of trial, they now say he’s crazy,” he told media.

“It’s all a lie. Like your (book of) Kohelet says, ‘Vanities of vanities, all is vanity,’” the Palestinian said, quoting from Ecclesiastes.

Prosecutor Uri Korv expressed hope that the court would reject the last-minute insanity plea. He said there was no dispute about Ben-David’s condition, but he emphasized that it was “not such that detracts from his criminal responsibility” and fitness for trial.

Korv was otherwise satisfied that the court determined unequivocally that all three committed “the barbaric and abhorrent crime of kidnapping an innocent person and burning him alive” just because of his ethnic background.

The prosecutor didn’t tell media what sentence the state would seek but said a life sentence – which in Israel typically means 20 to 30 years in prison – is the default punishment for murder and that the additional counts of kidnapping and attempted murder could extend the sentences.

The case was among the most horrific the prosecution had encountered, Korv said. “We cannot undo their acts,” he said, but he added that the system was committed to providing justice for all individuals.

Lawmaker Ayman Odeh, who heads the mostly Arab Joint List faction in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, accused Israeli authorities of “conveying a clear message of forgiveness and understanding” of Jewish terror by declaring killers insane or withholding their names.

Dov Khenin of the same party said the case must not end without “deep soul searching” and concrete measures against organizations of Jewish extremists, which he called the “engines of racist hatred.”

Shortly after the slaying, Israel’s Defense Ministry declared it to be an act of terrorism, recognizing Mohammed Abu Khdeir as a victim of terrorism. The government recognition, in addition to making a statement, carries benefits for the family.

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