A Jerusalem court on Wednesday acquitted five Jewish suspects charged over their participation in a 2015 wedding where revelers celebrated the murder of a Palestinian baby.
Juvenile court judge Shimon Leibo ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to convict the five suspects of incitement to terror and violence explaining that “the element of awareness required in incitement offenses was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The names of the five, who were minors at the time of the alleged offense, have been placed under gag order.
Footage from the so-called “hate wedding” aired by Channel 10 news in 2015 showed dozens of far-right guests celebrating by mocking a deadly firebombing attack on a Palestinian family, waving guns, knives and a mock Molotov cocktail.
Revelers were seen holding and stabbing a photo of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha, who was burned to death in the July 31 firebombing at the family home in the West Bank village of Duma. His parents, Riham and Saad Dawabsha, succumbed to their injuries in the aftermath of the attack. His young brother Ahmed was the sole survivor, but suffered severe injuries.
Eight other adults have been charged for their participation in the wedding and the case against them is still ongoing.
Leibo said that the minors’ participation in the dancing could not necessarily be interpreted as their support for harming the Dawabsha family. He also noted their age and the fact that some of them were drunk.
Leibo dismissed the prosecution’s argument that the minors had been aware of all elements of the dance, including the stabbing of the Dawabsha baby’s photo.
The judge criticized the police for leaking footage of the wedding to a journalist, while their investigation was still ongoing. He also laid into the prosecution over what he deemed to be selective enforcement compared to other cases where individuals were not charged.
The video drew widespread outrage when it aired, and Leibo indicated that the prosecution had been swayed by the media coverage to pursue the case.
“Considerations that are normally used to close other cases and not even to open an investigation were not used here, even though they were a number of them,” he wrote.
“The main consideration against the defendants is the media consideration,” the judge wrote.
In a statement following the ruling, the prosecution insisted that it had filed the 2016 indictments in the case “after a thorough factual and legal examination,” adding that they would examine the verdict and consider next steps.
The suspects’ attorney, Moshe Polsky from the right-wing Honenu legal aid group, said in a statement that he was “pleased that the court accepted the merits of our claims, both because there was no incitement and because the prosecution took actions of selective enforcement.”
He said his clients were targeted because of their background as “hilltop youth,” who are known for illegally settling West Bank hilltops and sometimes carrying out attacks against Palestinians and Israeli security forces.