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President declines to pardon man who killed his rapist

Yonatan Heilo, who is currently serving a 12-year sentence for killing attacker Yaron Eilin, to remain in prison

Yonatan Heilo at the Supreme Court to hear a decision on his appeal on May 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yonatan Heilo at the Supreme Court to hear a decision on his appeal on May 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin declined on Sunday to pardon a man jailed for killing his rapist and tormentor, saying through a spokesperson that “at this stage there is no justification for the granting of a pardon.”

Yonatan Heilo was originally convicted for the murder of Yaron Eilin, who repeatedly raped, robbed and blackmailed Heilo over a period of several months in 2010.

However, following an appeal, the Supreme Court softened Heilo’s murder conviction, instead finding him guilty of manslaughter and reducing his jail time from 20 years to 12.

Eilin, a convicted felon, reportedly made comments to Heilo during a 2010 Lag B’Omer celebration suggesting that he intended to rape him again. Later that evening, when Eilin went to urinate in an alley and had his back turned, Heilo jumped him from behind, strangled him and beat his body with a rock.

In the original December 2013 verdict, the Lod District Court recognized Heilo as a rape victim, but rejected his claim of self-defense on the grounds that he hadn’t reported the previous assaults to police and that several weeks had elapsed between the last assault and Eilin’s murder.

But in its response to Heilo’s appeal, the Supreme Court recognized the “ongoing taunting” that he suffered “during a long period of abuse by the deceased toward the appellant, which included a web of violent incidents, threats of violence, including threats on the appellant’s life, financial extortion and sexual abuse, which included two acts of sodomy.”

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a Sephardic Rabbis Union Conference held at the President's residence in Jerusalem, on December 6, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks during a Sephardic Rabbis Union Conference held at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, on December 6, 2016. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Rivlin said that “the explanations given for the pardon request” are the same as those already presented to the Supreme Court and there was no reason to reverse its ruling, although he added that he felt “sorrow and pain” for Heilo, who he described as a “victim.”

However, Rivlin added that “if an additional pardon request is presented by Heilo in the future, it will be possible to weigh the request” in accordance with “his rehabilitation process in the Israel Prisons Service.”

In November, the Pardons Department of the Justice Ministry recommended against pardoning Heilo, despite the appeal of dozens of lawmakers.

In June, 65 Knesset members from both sides of the aisle signed a letter calling on Rivlin to pardon Heilo. The petition was drafted by Deputy Knesset Speaker Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union).

Hasson described the Pardons Department’s recommendation in November as “outrageous,” saying “it disregards an unprecedented appeal for a pardon by a majority of Knesset members.”

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