A Palestinian man was convicted Monday of manslaughter over the killing of an Israeli farmer in 2015, after a court downgraded the original charge of murder. The victim’s family has claimed his death was a terror attack but Israeli authorities say it was a botched robbery.
The Lod District Court handed its ruling on Alaa Dar Asi, 23, from the West Bank village of Beit Lakiya, one of two cousins indicted in the death of 70-year-old David Bar-Kapara in his vineyard near Pedaya in central Israel, the Walla news site reported.
The court will rule on the second defendant, Mujahad Dar Asi, at a later date.
The two suspects were arrested a day after the attack on Bar-Kapara by the Shin Bet security agency and police. The two were in Israel illegally at the time of the attack.
According to Hebrew media reports, the suspects targeted Bar-Kapara for his money. Mujahad had worked for the farmer, but left the position some two months before the attack. On the morning of June 24, 2015, they confronted Bar-Kapara on his property and demanded he hand over money, under the assumption that the vineyard owner was carrying large amounts of cash.
When Bar-Kapara was found not to have any money on him, the two men beat him up, leaving him badly hurt. Other agricultural workers who witnessed the attack alerted the police and called an ambulance. Bar-Kapara was pronounced dead several hours later in a nearby hospital.
The prosecutor’s office said Monday that it faced problems in proving Dar Asi’s involvement in some of the offenses he was originally accused of, which included murder and robbery.
“The indictment was based, among other things, on testimonies by eyewitnesses,” it said, according to Walla. Despite the problems, the prosecution thought there was enough evidence to convict him of murder, but “the court decided otherwise and we will study the ruling.”
Bar-Kapara’s family members still claim the brutal killing was a terror attack, and held protests outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem during the court discussions. They voiced disappointment over the ruling.
“From the moment the incident was defined as criminal, rather than nationalistic as it should have been, we were afraid the court would hand the terrorist a lenient punishment,” said the victim’s son, Elia Bar-Kapara, according to Walla.
“I call on the prosecution to announce today that it is not prepared for any plea bargain over the punishment and that it demands the maximum legal penalty,” he said, also calling on the court to convict the second defendant of murder and sentence him to life in prison.
“These are two terrorists who need to be jailed for many years,” he claimed. “They came with one objective — to kill Jews — and they killed a Jew, and that’s where it ends.”
The Shin Bet, while maintaining that the motives of the attack were criminal, said in 2015 that the two suspects had a history of involvement in unspecified terror-related activities.
“The brutal killing by the two was carried out against a backdrop of a robbery gone wrong,” it said in a statement. “Still, it must be taken into account that the two killers were involved in past grassroots terror activity.”
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.