Court: DNA of Jewish teen suspect found on stone that killed Palestinian woman

Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court agrees to extend remand of the minor for Thursday as prosecution prepares indictment

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Far-right activists protest the continued detention of the prime suspect in the killing of Aisha Rabi outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 23, 2018. (Liat Bracha)
Far-right activists protest the continued detention of the prime suspect in the killing of Aisha Rabi outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 23, 2018. (Liat Bracha)

DNA belonging to the main suspect in the killing of Aisha Rabi was found on the stone that fatally struck the Palestinian woman in the head three months ago, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court revealed Wednesday.

The court on Wednesday accepted the prosecution’s request to extend the remand of the Jewish teenager for an additional day. Prosecutors are expected to file an indictment against the minor on Thursday, the suspect’s attorney confirmed.

At a January 10 remand hearing — the second of five held for the teenager since his December 30 arrest — Judge Guy Avnon stated that “the severity of the suspicions (against him) is very high.”

At the police’s request, Avnon authorized the publication of that remark, in addition to several others from his decision, which is part of an investigation that remains under a gag order.

A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)

Details of the evidence against the teenager had been kept under wraps until Wednesday, when the judge agreed to release his decision from the latest closed-door remand hearing.

“The minor provided testimony that allegedly provides some explanation for the central evidence gathered in the case, DNA findings on the stone that caused the deceased’s death,” Avnon wrote.

Following a January 15 announcement by the prosecution that it intends to indict the teenager, the suspect broke his silence in order to explain why his DNA was found on the stone that struck Rabi in the head while she was driving with her husband and daughter in the northern West Bank on October 12.

While details regarding his testimony have not been revealed, it prompted prosecutors to request an additional remand extension on January 20 in order to investigate the claims made by the teenager.

That order to keep the suspect behind bars expired Wednesday — over a week after the prosecution said it intended to indict the suspect “in the coming days.”

Adi Keidar, July 13, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The suspect’s lawyer, Adi Keidar from the Honenu legal aid group, downplayed the evidence tying his client to the crime. He argued that if prosecutors had enough evidence to charge the suspect, they would have done so already, instead of once again asking for a remand extension.

Keidar predicted that if the court ends up indicting his client, “it will lead to a scenario in which the case will drag out for a number of years without being solved.” He referenced the ongoing trial against the two young Israelis suspects in the July 2015 deadly firebombing of the Dawabshe home in the Palestinian village of Duma. Last July, the Lod District Court threw out a series of confessions given under extreme duress by the alleged accomplice, in a decision viewed as a significant setback for prosecutors.

A Justice Ministry official told The Times of Israel last week that the state is planning to charge the suspect in the deadly rock-throwing with manslaughter, a crime whose maximum sentence is 20 years behind bars.

The minor was arrested on December 30 along with two other students from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva high school in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim. A week later, two more boys from the same boarding school were arrested. The other four have since been released.

On January 6, the Shin Bet partially lifted a gag order on the case and announced that the five boys were suspected of involvement in the killing of Rabi, a 47-year-old mother of eight.

The Pri Haaretz Yeshiva in the Rehelim settlement on January 8, 2019. (Ofer Meir/Flash90)

The main suspect’s father has said that his son is innocent and that the Shin Bet security services was violently interrogating him. He claimed the teenager had been at a Shabbat meal with dozens of other Pri Haaretz students when the attack took place.

The Shin Bet has come under fire from far-right activists and some lawmakers over the minors’ extended detention, and has vigorously denied accusations of torture.

Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, dozens of far-right activists protested against the continued jailing of the Israeli teenager, holding signs calling on the Shin Bet to “come down from the tree.”

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