Former state’s witness in mob case gunned down in car
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Former state’s witness in mob case gunned down in car

Police open investigation into shooting death of Basel Mustafa Assi, whose testimony led to conviction of 15 gang members

Bullet holes are seen in the window of a car that former state's witness Basel Mustafa Assi was found shot to death in on September 13, 2019, in Kafr Bara. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Bullet holes are seen in the window of a car that former state's witness Basel Mustafa Assi was found shot to death in on September 13, 2019, in Kafr Bara. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A former state’s witness in a major case involving the Israeli mob was found shot to death in his car on Friday.

Basel Mustafa Assi, 46, was shot in his hometown of Kafr Bara, in central Israel. He was taken in critical condition to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where he was pronounced dead.

Police have opened an investigation into the shooting.

A preliminary probe indicated Assi was in Kafr Bara to visit relatives, the Haaretz daily reported. He lived in Qalqilya in the West Bank for the last three years after spending nearly a decade overseas.

Assi was a member of the Hariri crime family until 2005, when he was arrested on extortion charges. At his own initiative, he then reached out to police and signed an agreement to turn state’s witness and serve as an undercover agent in exchange for financial benefits and the closing of a number of criminal cases against him.

His testimony led to the indictment and eventual conviction of 15 members of the Hariri organization.

Court documents from the case listed a number of reasons Assi decided to assist the police, among them a feeling of betrayal from the gang’s leaders, according to Hebrew media reports.

In 2011, he sent two videos to the lawyer of one of the convicts in an effort “to clear his conscience.” In the videos, Assi described how a hidden camera had been placed in his house and claimed that police told him he could commit crimes as long as it was not captured on video. He also said he was not in fact present for some of the alleged crimes detailed in the indictments.

The videos prompted a request for a retrial, which was rejected by the Supreme Court.

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