Man gets community service over lynching of migrant mistaken for terrorist

David Muial found guilty of involvement in the brutal beating of Haftom Zarhum, who was killed in the aftermath of a 2015 terror attack at Beersheba bus station

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

Paramedics treating victims after a terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station on October 18, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Paramedics treating victims after a terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station on October 18, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)

The Beersheba District Court on Wednesday convicted an Israeli man for involvement in the 2015 lynching of an African asylum seeker mistaken for a terrorist, but under the terms of a plea deal, sentenced him to community service and not prison time as prosecutors had originally sought.

David Muial was found guilty of “abusing the helpless” for his role in the brutal beating of Eritrean migrant Haftom Zarhum after a terror attack that took place in Beersheba amid a nationwide wave of stabbings and car-ramming attacks.

Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015, a few hours after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18, 2015. (Courtesy)

Zarhum, 29, was shot by a security guard in the minutes after a terror attack at the Beersheba bus station on October 18, 2015, that left an Israeli soldier dead and 11 people wounded. As he lay bleeding and helpless on the ground, a crowd of angry passersby beat him, some of them delivering powerful blows to his head and pummeling him with a metal bench. He died hours later in a hospital, and an autopsy ruled that the primary cause of death was the gunshot wounds.

According to footage of the incident, in the aftermath of the attack, as Zarhum lay helpless and bleeding on the floor surrounded by a large crowd of people, Muial approached and forcefully dropped a bench on him. People in the area moved Muial away and lifted the bench off the victim, but then two other suspects moved in and kicked Zarhum hard in the head and his upper body. A fourth suspect then dropped the bench on the prostrate man again, to prevent him from moving.

Warning: Video contains graphic images

Muial was indicted last year along with the three other suspects, Evyatar Dimri, Israel Defense Forces soldier Yaakov Shimba and Israel Prisons Service guard Ronen Cohen, who are currently awaiting a verdict in their own trials.

The State Prosecution had originally pushed to convict the four for “causing injury with grave intent,” but decided to drop the more serious charge against Muial as part of a plea bargain , accepting his claim that he believed Zarhum was a terrorist.

Muial’s legal team said in a statement Thursday that the prosecution took into account his “sincere regret and deep pain” over the incident.

“We hope that the end of this process will help [Muial] to collect himself and move towards rehabilitation,” they said.

Zarhum’s family is currently suing the state for damages, claiming negligence and failure to follow proper procedure caused his death.

The lawsuit, filed last year at the Beersheba District Court, demands NIS 3 million ($780,000) in compensation and that the National Insurance Agency recognize Zahrum as a victim of terror, entitling his family to additional state benefits.

The National Insurance Agency has rejected recognizing Zarhum as a victim of terror because the Eritrean had entered the country illegally.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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