Man handed community service for lynching migrant mistaken for terrorist

David Muial will pay NIS 2,000 compensation for his involvement in killing Haftom Zarhum in the aftermath of a 2015 terror attack in Beersheba

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 sentenced an Israeli man to 100 days of community service for his involvement in the 2015 lynching of an African asylum seeker mistaken for a terrorist.

As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, David Muial was also sentenced to eight months of probation and will have to pay NIS 2,000 (approximately $550) compensation to the family of the victim, Haftom Zarhum.

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

Zarhum, 29, an innocent bystander, was shot by a security guard in the minutes after a terror attack at the bus station on October 18, 2015, that left an Israeli soldier dead and 11 people wounded. As he lay bleeding 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.

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)

Footage of the incident showed that, in the aftermath of the attack, as Zarhum lay helpless, 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’s legal team have said their client feels “sincere regret and deep pain” over the incident. He 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.

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.

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, demanded 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 terror victim because the Eritrean had entered the country illegally.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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