Jerusalem – Two of the three convicted murderers in the Abu Khdeir case were sentenced Thursday in the Jerusalem District Court. The first, a 17-year-old, received a life sentence and the second, aged 16, received 21 years. Their names are still under a gag order.
The third murderer was not sentenced and is still attempting an insanity plea.
The sentencing of the two minors came as a split decision by the judges.
Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Arab from Shuafat in east Jerusalem was abducted, burned and brutally murdered on July 2, 2014 while waiting to enter a mosque. The murder was carried out as a nationalist revenge murder following the infamous murder of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014.
News coverage of the slaying led to Arab riots throughout east Jerusalem and the rest of the country.
Prior to Thursday’s sentencing, there was speculation that the convicted minors might get only 15 years or less since they are underage and were under the influence of the third suspect, Yosef Haim Ben David.
The session was closed door because the two murderers whose fate was being debated are minors.
The ringleader in the 2014 murder of Abu Khdeir, Ben David, has claimed insanity.
Upon hearing the sentencing, Abu Khdeir’s mother burst into tears and went on a fiery tirade saying there is no justice in Israel.
The father of the murdered said: “We don’t expect a decision, we’re going to the Supreme Court,” to appeal the 16-year-old convict’s 21-year prison sentence.
Abu Khdeir’s father added that the court should order the demolition of the house belonging to the convicted, like the state does to the homes of Arab terrorists.
Prosecutor Avi Korb charged that, even though the second minor stayed it the car during the actual killing, the court did convict him of first degree murder because of the brutality of murder. The prosecution added that the court should not have used its discretion to sentence him to anything less than life in prison.
“No punishment can compensate the victims but Israel is a state of justice, it deals with terror the same whether dealing with one group or another (Jews or Arab),” he said. “The punishment encompasses the barbaric murder of the child who was killed only because of his background. We asked for life in prison for both minors, [the court] gave life in prison to one of the minors.”
When asked whether there would be an appeal of the ruling, the leaning of the prosecution – with the power to appeal – was against such a move.
Meanwhile, the defense attorney for the minor who received the 21-year sentence said the court was wrong to convict his client of murder, but the shorter sentence was appropriate as it took into account that he was less involved.
He added that an appeal was being considered.
On November 30, a three judge panel found all three defendants perpetrated the murder of Abu Khdeir, but delayed formally convicting of the adult, Ben David, after an unprecedented eleventh–hour insanity plea.
The court did convict the two defendant-minors, one from Jerusalem and one from Beit Shemesh, of murder, kidnapping and a range of other offenses, despite their protests that only Ben David committed the murder, and that they only intended to rough up Abu Khdeir.
Following the indictment of the three, the Defense Ministry recognized Abu Khdeir as a victim of hostile action, granting his family identical compensation rights as the victims of Arab terror, such as victims of suicide bombings – assuming its decision is also adopted by the National Insurance Institute.
At the time, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein called the murder a “horrifying act,” and praised law enforcement for the swiftness with which they arrested the three defendants.
Throughout a year-long trial, Ben David claimed insanity, but never filed a psychiatric report which could give his plea a chance.
Until the November 30 hearing, there was little doubt that Ben David would be convicted by the three judge panel of Jacob Zavan, Rivkah Friedman-Feldman and Rafi Carmel with the insanity plea having nothing legal to stand on.
But right before the verdict, Ben David’s lawyer, Asher Ohayon, shocked the courtroom, having quietly (without notice to the public) produced to the court an insanity plea psychiatric opinion just in time for the verdict.
Although such conduct is not allowed according to legal procedure, because Ben David was not yet convicted, the court decided it will review the opinion.
In the case of Abu Khdeir, the indictment alleged that Ben-David drove the car, while both minors attacked and threw the victim into the car.
Abu Khdeir tried to call his uncle, attempted to escape and even kicked one of the defendants in the face before they overpowered him.
The defendants partially-strangled and struck Abu Khdeir on the head multiple times, as Ben-David called out the names of murdered Jews, such as Shalhevet Pas, the Fogel family, Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel.
Next, Ben-David told the minors to burn his body to erase evidence, and that they doused him with gasoline and started to burn him while he was still alive.
The three defendants had confessed that the murder had been an act of revenge following the murder of the three teenagers in June.
Police found the teenager’s badly burned remains approximately one hour after he was reported kidnapped.