The Jaffa Military Court on Sunday approved the terms of a plea bargain that saw three IDF soldiers convicted last week of abusing two Palestinian prisoners.
Under the terms of the deal, the soldiers will serve six months in prison followed by probation, and will be demoted to the rank of private, but will avoid more serious assault charges.
“The verdicts include prison terms of only a few months and a criminal record that is expected to be expunged within two years only, in a manner that will significantly reduce the negative impact on the fighters further on in their civilian lives,” defense attorneys said in statement.
The solders, from the religious Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the IDF’s Kfir Brigade, were convicted last Thursday after accepting a deal with prosecutors and pleading guilty to aggravated abuse over the January incident.
The three soldiers were part of a group of five servicemen from the battalion who were arrested and charged with severely abusing two Palestinian suspects — a father and his son — believed to have assisted a terrorist who had killed two of their comrades in a shooting attack at a bus stop.
The two other soldiers indicted in January have yet to reach similar plea agreements with military prosecutors, but the two sides were still working to negotiate one, a military official said.
According to the indictment, the soldiers viciously beat the two handcuffed and blindfolded prisoners, who have since been charged with abetting the terrorist, and filmed their actions with a smartphone. One of the prisoners sustained such serious injuries that he was hospitalized and could not be interrogated by Israeli security forces for several days.
The soldiers’ commanding officer, a lieutenant, was also charged last month with failing to prevent the abuse, despite knowing that it was occurring.
One of the convicted soldiers indicated to the court that the trauma of losing their friends in a terror attack was what prompted the abuse.
On December 13, Palestinian Asem Barghouti opened fire at a bus stop outside the Givat Assaf outpost near Ramallah, killing two soldiers stationed there and seriously injuring a third serviceman and a civilian woman, according to the IDF.
Barghouti, who fled the scene after the shooting, was arrested in the home of an alleged accomplice in the nearby village of Abu Shukheidim on January 8. The two Palestinians involved in the beating incident were arrested the same day in the village on suspicion they assisted Barghouti in hiding from security forces.
“We drove past the Givat Assaf bus stop with the bullet holes and everything just came to the surface. This incident was totally out of character for me,” the soldier said. “I regret it.”
The five soldiers were indicted for aggravated assault and aggravated abuse. Two of them were also charged with obstruction of justice for attempting to coordinate their statements before they were interrogated.
The five soldiers were accused of “striking the Palestinians with slaps, punches and bludgeons, while they were handcuffed and blindfolded, causing them serious injuries,” the army said in a statement last month.
According to the indictment against the soldiers, during the assault, the troops removed the blindfold from the son “so that he would see how they were hitting” his father.
One of the soldiers filmed the violence with his cellphone, while the other soldiers “cheered with joy and pride to one another — all of this in front of the camera lens,” according to the indictment.
The Netzah Yehuda Battalion was created so that ultra-Orthodox and other religious soldiers can serve without feeling they are compromising their beliefs. The soldiers do not interact with female troops to the same extent as other servicemen and are given additional time for prayer and study.