A Jerusalem court on Monday sentenced an East Jerusalem terrorist to three consecutive life sentences and an additional 60 years in prison for killing three people in an attack on a bus in the capital last October.
Last month, Bilal Abu Ghanem was convicted of three counts of murder, seven counts of attempted murder and aiding the enemy in wartime for his role in killing three people in a terror attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood.
The attack claimed the lives of Haviv Haim, 78, and Alon Govberg, 51. Richard Lakin, 76, who was critically wounded, died some two weeks later. Over a dozen people were also injured in the attack.
As part of his sentence, the court demanded that Abu Ghanem, a Jabel Mukaber resident and Hamas supporter, compensate the people he wounded and the families of the deceased.
According to the judge’s decision, the families of the three fatalities will each receive NIS 250,000 ($64,000), while the wounded will receive NIS 150,000 ($38,000) apiece and the bus driver will get NIS 100,000 ($26,000).
“This was a mass-casualty terror attack, carried out with pistol fire and stabbings, which was committed by the defendant along with his friend, Bahaa Alian, who was killed by the gunfire of security forces who had been called to the scene and put an end to the deadly acts,” the court’s decision read.
The sentence was 10 years short of the prosecution’s initial request, which called for three consecutive life sentences for the killings and another 70 years for the attempted murders. The conviction came after the court in March rejected a plea bargain struck between the prosecution and the defense.
As part of the nixed plea bargain, which would seen have seen seven counts of attempted murder dropped from his charge sheet, Abu Ghanem was to state his confession to the court. Then the judge was expected to convict him on three counts of murder.
But when the moment came, Abu Ghanem refused to stand and make his confession to the court, even at the explicit request of presiding Judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman. She then called for a short recess and instructed Abu Ghanem’s legal counsel to explain court procedures to the defendant.
After the break, Abu Ghanem’s attorney told the court that his client had doubled down on his refusal to comply with procedure, prompting the judge to rescind the plea bargain.
“In light of the circumstances, in which the defendant has refused to stand or address this court, the court does not recognize any deal reached between the two parties,” it said in a statement.
According to the court’s decision, Abu Ghanem and Alyan, boarded Egged bus 78 in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on the morning of October 13 of last year, and began shooting and stabbing passengers.
The two men were motivated to carry out the attack in retaliation for Israeli “intrusions in Al-Aqsa” on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and the “settlers who murder small children,” the charge sheet said.
Police who arrived at the scene shot and killed Alyan. Abu Ghanem was shot and injured, and police took him into custody.
In January, Alyan’s and Abu Ghanem’s family homes in Jabel Mukaber were demolished by Israeli security forces.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.