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Dozens protest at hearing for suspected car-ramming attacker

Khaled Koutineh, who ran over and killed Shalom Sherki last April, pleads insanity, insists his confession was coerced

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Khaled Koutineh, who ran over and killed Shalom Sherki last April, is brought to the Jerusalem District Court on February 1, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Khaled Koutineh, who ran over and killed Shalom Sherki last April, is brought to the Jerusalem District Court on February 1, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Dozens of Israelis gathered outside the Jerusalem District Court on Monday to protest against a hearing for Khaled Koutineh, who ran over and killed Shalom Sherki in an alleged vehicular attack in the capital’s French Hill neighborhood last April.

In the hearing, Koutineh and his attorneys were expected to plead insanity, prompting Sherki’s family to call for the demonstration to pressure the court to not grant the suspected attacker’s request.

Sherki, 25, was the son of Rabbi Uri Sherki, a community rabbi in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, and the brother of Yair Sherki, a reporter for Channel 2 news.

Last week, Yair Sherki issued a call on social media for a public protest against Koutineh.

Shalom Sherki, 25, who was killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood (screen capture)
Shalom Sherki, 25, who was killed in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood (screen capture)

“In front of a hall packed with watchful eyes, the judges will be sharper and halt the foot-dragging of the defense lawyers, and the prosecution will make more of an effort,” he said.

המחבל שרצח את שלום אחי, יגיע ביום שני הקרוב לבית המשפט מצוייד בחוות דעת פסיכיאטרית פרטית שתקבע כי לא היה אחראי…

Posted by ‎יאיר שרקי‎ on Thursday, January 28, 2016

“We came here to say that Jewish blood is not cheap,” protester Esther Sultan told Channel 2. “We came here to let the judges know that we will not sit quietly while people are murdered.”

Koutineh, 37, of the West Bank town of Anata northeast of Jerusalem, originally claimed that he had lost control of his car and did not intend to kill Sherki. He was driving northbound on Haim Bar Lev Boulevard, the main artery separating east and west Jerusalem. He had just passed the French Hill intersection when he swerved onto the sidewalk, striking a bus stop and hitting Sherki and Shira Klein, severely injuring her. He then reversed into a stoplight, injuring himself and becoming trapped in the vehicle.

Friends and family of Shalom Sherki carry his body during his funeral in Jerusalem on April 16, 2015. (Flash90)
Friends and family of Shalom Sherki carry his body during his funeral in Jerusalem on April 16, 2015. (Flash90)

In Monday’s hearing, Koutineh said he could not recall the exact details of the incident, and added that he had been sleep deprived on the night of the crash.

“I drove my parents home [on that night] but I do not remember anything since,” he said. “I was tired and stressed out.” Koutineh also said he had suffered from depression during the months and years prior to the suspected attack.

He further claimed that his confession had been coerced by police interrogators. “From the moment I arrived at the Russian Compound for interrogation they beat me,” he said, according to the Walla news site. “I told the interrogator I planned an attack, but I was lying in the hope that he’d leave me alone. All I could remember was a car accident.”

Authorities maintain that Koutineh had “almost certainly” acted out of nationalistic motives, and that he did, in fact, intend to carry out a terror attack.

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