Minors handed life sentence, 21 years for Abu Khdeir murder
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Minors handed life sentence, 21 years for Abu Khdeir murder

Killers were instrumental in 2014 kidnapping, burning-to-death of Palestinian teen, court rules; Abu Khdeir family slams second defendant’s lighter sentence

Police escort two Jewish minors, suspected of taking part in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, at the Jerusalem District Court, Jerusalem, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police escort two Jewish minors, suspected of taking part in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, at the Jerusalem District Court, Jerusalem, June 3, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Two out of three killers of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir were sentenced on Thursday to life in prison and 21 years, respectively.

The first killer, 17, was convicted of actively helping in Abu Khdeir’s grisly 2014 kidnapping-murder that saw the Palestinian youth, 16, burned to death in a Jerusalem forest. He was sentenced to life for helping to pour gasoline on the Palestinian teen before the latter was set alight, and received a separate three-year sentence and NIS 35,000 in reparations to two Palestinian families.

The second killer, 16, helped the 17-year-old and the third suspect to kill the Palestinian teen, and received a 21-year sentence and NIS 30,000 in reparations to the Abu Khdeir family.

The sentences, handed down by the Jerusalem District Court, are rare for minors.

The third suspect, 31-year-old Jerusalem resident Yosef Haim Ben-David, was also convicted in the attack, but has not yet been sentenced while the court considers his claim that he suffers from a mental illness and was not responsible for his actions at the time.

Israeli law forbids identifying minors convicted of crimes.

Abu Khdeir’s family reacted with dismay to the lighter sentence handed down, saying both should have been given life sentences.

According to a statement released by the court, the three-judge panel was not unanimous about the sentence. In a minority opinion, Judge Rafi Carmel urged a similar life sentence for the 16-year-old killer.

“In circumstances where all lines of legality and morality are crossed, personal considerations [that led to the lighter sentence] must be rejected in light of the public interest and the need for uncompromising deterrence,” Carmel wrote.

“The punishment must match the horror of the deed, even in circumstances like those of Defendant No. 3,” Carmel added.

As the minors cannot be identified, no details of the defendant’s “circumstances” have been made public.

The court has ruled that Ben-David led the attack on Abu Khdeir, which shocked the country and led to several days of Palestinian street violence.

On Tuesday, a hearing was postponed to allow a full psychiatric review to assess his insanity claims. The hearing, originally set for Wednesday, will now take place on February 11.

Police escort Yosef Ben David (in green), one of the Jewish suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Jerusalem District Court on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police escort Yosef Ben David (in green), one of the Jewish suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Jerusalem District Court on June 8, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Abu Khdeir was abducted and killed on July 1, 2014, two days after it emerged that three Israeli teens who had been abducted three weeks earlier in the West Bank had been killed by their Palestinian kidnappers shortly after their disappearance.

The violence was a major contributing factor in the breakout of a war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers that followed just a week later.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)
Muhammad Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)

Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of the murdered teen, called Tuesday for Israeli authorities to destroy the homes of the murderers in keeping with the policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists.

Abu Khdeir said that if the government would have demolished the homes of his son’s killers, the Dawabsha family would not have been murdered in the July 31, 2015, firebombing attack in the West Bank village of Duma.

“I ask that you give them the harshest punishment, demolish their homes, just as they do for Arabs,” he said in court, according to Channel 10. “There must be equality in punishment. If they had demolished their homes, the Dawabsha family would not have been burned. Light sentences encourage them to commit these sorts of attacks.”

Right-wing Jewish extremist Amiram Ben-Uliel was charged earlier this month with murder over the Dawabsha attack in which a toddler and two parents were killed. The sole surviving member of the family, five-year-old Ahmed, remains hospitalized in Israel as he slowly recovers from severe burns.

The court’s actions are being closely watched at a time of renewed Israeli-Palestinian tensions. A wave of Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks targeting Israelis began in October.

AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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