Expert casts doubt in case against teen accused of killing Palestinian woman
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Expert casts doubt in case against teen accused of killing Palestinian woman

Judge delays release to house arrest of suspect in Aisha Rabi’s death, as pathologist opinion appears to weaken prosecution’s version of events

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

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)
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)

A legal opinion submitted to an Israeli court in the case of an Israeli teen charged with killing Palestinian woman Aisha Rabi cast doubt on the state’s version of the events that led to her death in October.

The defense’s opinion, drafted by the chief pathologist at the National Center of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, appeared to weaken the prosecution’s case against the 16-year-old suspect, as it said that the stone he is charged with having hurled at Rabi’s car may not have been the cause of her death.

“In searching the professional literature, there was no case found in which such broad wounds [found on the victim] were the result of one strike of a stone,” Dr. Hen Kugel wrote, arguing that the forensics indicated at least two points of impact to her scull.

However, Kugel noted that he was one of seven pathologists at Abu Kabir who studied the case and that only two of them agreed with his conclusion. Two others found that the quality of the forensics was not strong enough to make a determination one way or another.

The Israeli teen (L) suspected of killing Aisha Rabi in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on January 23, 2019. (YouTube/Screen capture)

Only two of the seven experts deemed the evidence clear enough to conclude that the wounds to Rabi’s skull had indeed been caused by a single rock. They argued that the speeds of both the car in which the woman was traveling with her husband, and the rock that was hurled through their windshield, could have caused damage severe enough to make it appear as if she had been struck more than once.

The Lod District Court ordered a one-day delay in the release of the Israeli teen to house arrest, which had been scheduled by the court for Tuesday, in order to give the prosecution more time to appeal the decision. Hours later, the prosecution announced that it would indeed file an objection.

The ruling comes a week after the same court ordered parole officers to inspect the home of the suspect’s grandparents in the central city of Kfar Saba to ensure its suitability as a place for him to reside under house arrest.

The teen, who cannot be named because of privacy laws protecting minors, will be required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, be under the 24/7 supervision of two adult family guardians, and have no contact whatsoever with non-family members.

Aisha and Yakoub Rabi and their daughters (Courtesy)

In his ruling last week, Judge Haggai Tarsi said he recognized the severity of the crime, highlighting that the teen likely faced a conviction given that his DNA was found on a stone that struck Rabi.

However, he said the court was required to consider detention alternatives due to the suspect’s young age, as well as the various psychiatric assessments conducted by state authorities over the past several months that found the teen to be psychologically stable.

The suspect, a student at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim, was charged with manslaughter, aggravated stone throwing at a moving vehicle, and intentional sabotage of a vehicle. Each of the charges is connected to the killing of Rabi, a mother of eight, and was qualified as having been carried out “in the context of a terrorist act.”

If convicted, the teen could face considerable jail time; a manslaughter terrorism conviction alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars. Due to apparent limits imposed on prosecutors by the available evidence, the suspect avoided murder charges, which would have put him at risk of a life sentence.

According to the charge sheet, the suspect departed from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva accompanied by several other students late on the evening of October 12, a Friday.

The group arrived at a hilltop between the Rehelim Junction and the Tapuah Junction, overlooking Route 60 — the West Bank’s main north-south artery. The suspect then hurled a large rock weighing roughly two kilograms (4.4 pounds) at a Palestinian vehicle, “out of an ideological motive of racism and hostility toward Arabs everywhere,” the indictment said.

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