The family of one of two IDF soldiers murdered in a lynching in Ramallah 17 years ago said that it was not informed by either the military or the government that one of the culprits was released after reaching a plea deal in a retrial.
Roi Avrahami, whose father Yosef Avrahami was beaten to death along with another soldier, Vadim Norzhich, in a brutal attack that was caught on film by an Italian TV crew, told Channel 10 on Thursday that he did not learn that Hatam Faiz Khalil Magari was released until being contacted by the media.
“I found out from the news. At 8 p.m. [on Wednesday] I was called by a representative from Army Radio and she wanted to hear my initial reaction,” he said.
“I said to her, ‘What are you talking about? We don’t know anything. It seems to me there is a mistake.'”
“Ten minutes later I looked over the details more deeply on a Facebook post from Channel 10 and this is in fact how I found out about” the release of Magari.
“We learned about the matter [only] after the terrorist was likely already at his victory party in Gaza,” he told Army Radio Thursday.
Magari was sentenced to life in 2004 on charges that included deliberately causing the death of Avrahami and Norzhich, but after accepting that the evidence that had helped identify Magari as one of the murderers was problematic, a military court reached a plea deal with him this week that involved scrapping his original conviction for murder and other offenses, and replacing it with a conviction for attacking a soldier and failing to prevent a crime.
The court then sentenced him to eleven and a half years in prison.
As he had already served more than 15 years, he was freed on Wednesday and deported to the Gaza Strip.
بعد اعتقال دام 17 عاما ..
قوات الاحتلال تفرج عن الأسير حاتم المغاري من م رفح جنوب قطاع غزة pic.twitter.com/LOBrdElUJG
— Pal.Info.Center (@PalinfoAr) March 29, 2017
Despite the military court’s decision to reopen Magari’s case and reach a deal, Avrahami said that his family was never informed of the legal proceedings.
“No one in my family received a phone call, even a minor update,” he told Channel 10, adding that the family had still not heard from any military or government representative since Magari’s release was reported Wednesday.
Avrahami told Army Radio that although he was disappointed that Magari was allowed to go free, he was not mad or frustrated. “None of these things will bring my father back to me,” he said.
He added, “I am optimistic that the security establishment will settle the score. I don’t know when, I don’t know how and I don’t know where, but I know it will do this.”
In response, the IDF said that it although it had been in touch with Yosef Avrahami’s father, “lessons will be learned” as to why his widow and children were not informed.
“In retrospect, it turned out that this information was not received by the widow and children of the deceased. We apologize for this, and lessons will be learned in order to prevent the recurrence of similar instances,” the army told the Hebrew-language Ynet news site.
Avrahami and Norzhich took a wrong turn in October 2000 and ended up in the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah in the West Bank at the start of the Second Intifada.
The two men were viciously beaten to death and their bodies were mutilated.
Magari was convicted on the basis of witness testimony from one of the participants, Bassam Hassin A-Luah. A-Luah also incriminated seven others
Two of them confessed to being involved in the beatings, but neither incriminated Magari. Furthermore, two others incriminated by A-Luah were never prosecuted, a fact that, Magari claimed, cast doubt on his conviction.
Magari, who lost an initial appeal against his conviction and subsequently requested a retrial, also said that relevant information from other men which could have affected the court’s decision was not presented at his trial.
Another of the men involved in the lynching, Aziz Salha, achieved notoriety by standing at a window to display his blood-stained hands to the mob below.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 for his role in the murder of Norzhich, but was released in 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who had been kidnapped and held by the terror organization Hamas in Gaza.