Family of Palestinian teenager burned alive condemn trial
A Jerusalem court on Monday convicted two Israeli youths in the grisly killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian, but delayed the verdict for the third and chief suspect in the case due to a last-minute insanity plea, sparking claims that Israel is too lenient with Jewish assailants.
The court found the two Israeli minors guilty of killing Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped, beaten unconscious and then burned alive in July 2014.
|This is a lie... I am afraid that the court will release them in the end
- Father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir
Their names were not released under Israeli law. The sentencing of the pair is expected in mid-January.
The delay of the verdict for suspected ringleader Yosef Haim Ben David, 31, infuriated many Palestinians, who contend that Israel is too lenient on Jewish offenders while dealing harshly with Palestinians.
Abu Khdeir's father Hussein denounced the proceedings. "This is a lie," he told Israeli Army Radio. "I am afraid that the court will release them in the end."
A heinous crime
In his ruling, Judge Jacob Zaban determined that Ben David and the two minors snatched Abu Khdeir off an east Jerusalem street in July 2014 and burned him alive in a forest west of the city.
The judge found that Ben David drove the car while the two youths beat Abu Khdeir unconscious in the back seat.
Once they reached the forest, one accomplice helped Ben David douse Abu Khdeir with gasoline. Then Ben David lit the match, according to Judge Zaban.
The three suspects were arrested shortly after the 2 July, 2014, abduction and confessed to the killing to investigators with Israel's Shin Bet, the security agency said.
According to the agency, the three said that Abu Khdeir's slaying was in revenge for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers - Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel - by Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
The deaths of the three Israelis triggered an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank.
The confrontation escalated into a 51-day war in which more than 2,200 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, were killed, according to UN figures.
|Yosef Haim Ben David's (C) attorney submitted an insanity plea [Getty]|
Late last week, Ben David's attorney, Asher Ohayon, submitted the insanity plea.
Zaban said the late timing was "against regular and appropriate protocol", but said the court would examine it and issue a verdict later in December.
"How can the defendant, two days ago, a year and a half after the crime, bring a document claiming insanity?" Abu Khudair also told reporters after Monday's verdict.
An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was "unprecedented" for the court to accept the insanity plea the day of the verdict, rather than during the subsequent appeal.
"This development shows that the first defendant in this case will be either acquitted or gets a mitigation excuse," Ahmad Rwaidi said.
Hamas condemned what it called an "exoneration" of Ben David.
"This is an evidence of the occupation's racism and its sponsorship of the settlers' crimes against the Palestinian people," the group said in a statement.
Haifa University legal expert Emanuel Gross said the late insanity plea was "unbecoming behaviour".
Israel has a mandatory life sentence for adults convicted of murder, Gross said.
Minors found guilty of murder can be held for life, but the punishment is usually lighter, he said.
During the trial, one of the convicted Israeli minors claimed he did not realise the three of them would kill Abu Khdeir, while the other said he took part in strangling the Palestinian youth in the car and pouring gasoline on his motionless body. Ben David did not testify.
The two minors were 16 years old at the time of the crime, according to attorney Avi Himi, who is representing one of the youths.