Man to be charged for stabbing teen Yoel Lhanghal to death at Kiryat Shmona party

21-year-old accused of killing of 18-year-old less than a year after he immigrated to Israel from India; defense lawyer vows to put up legal fight

Yoel Lhanghal (Courtesy)
Yoel Lhanghal (Courtesy)

Police are set to charge a 21-year-old man with the murder of a teenager in the northern city of Kiryat Shmona last month.

Police said Friday they completed their investigation into the killing of Yoel Lhanghal, 18, who was stabbed during a brawl at a birthday party in the city, less than a year after he immigrated to Israel from India.

Police filed a prosecutor’s statement against the suspect, a Kiryat Shmona resident recently released from the army.

Prosecutors are expected to file murder charges at the Nazareth District Court in the coming days.

Shimon Zion, the accused’s lawyer, said his client did not have a criminal record and would fight the charges, noting that there were others involved in the brawl in which Lhanghal died.

“Although the state stated its intention to charge him, I intend to wage a legal battle for his innocence. The prosecution is wrong in that, out of dozens involved, it decided to accuse him,” Zion said.

Lhanghal was stabbed at a party in Kiryat Shmona in October.

A police probe following the incident found that officers initially arrived at the party in response to a call they received from guests claiming Lhanghal was abusing his girlfriend.

When officers arrived, they found that it was untrue and were instead required to break up a fight between Lhanghal and other guests at the party.

Lhanghal’s girlfriend, named only as Hadassah, told Channel 12 news that guests had thrown a glass of ice at her, which angered him.

“So they began to fight one another. All the Israelis jumped — one by one they jumped on Yoel. After that, I saw the blood and he showed me his teeth, his teeth were broken,” she said.

After telling Lhanghal and the others to keep their distance from one another, police said they believed the issue was resolved and left the scene.

Soon after they departed, the brawl resumed and Lhanghal was stabbed.

According to Hadassah, the attackers were “prepared for a fight,” arriving at the party with helmets, iron bars and rocks.

“I really wanted to move and stand up to help him, but I couldn’t help him,” she told the network.

Following the events, an investigation found that the conduct of officers involved in the incident was poor.

Northern District Police chief Shuki Tahauko recommended the removal of the police chief of Kiryat Shmona, Nir Sasson, and Sasson’s deputy received a reprimand in his permanent record.

The officer on duty who arrived on the scene after the initial report of a fight was also removed from duty after he was suspected of obstructing the course of justice. According to the Kan public broadcaster, the officer’s daughter had been in a relationship with the main suspect.

Lhanghal was a member of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community from a remote area of northeastern India.

Initial reports suggested that the attack may have been racially aggravated, but the reported expected charges did not reflect that.

The Bnei Menashe are believed to be descended from the biblical tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago. In 2005, then-Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar endorsed the Bnei Menashe’s claim to Jewish ancestry but required them to convert to Judaism.

Some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israel in recent years, with another 7,000 remaining in India.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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