Supreme Court okays house arrest for teen accused of killing Aisha Rabi

Rejecting state’s appeal, justice argues that likelihood 16-year-old could carry out another attack would be ‘close to zero’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

The Israeli teen (L) suspected of killing Aisha Rabi in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 23, 2019. (YouTube/Screen capture)
The Israeli teen (L) suspected of killing Aisha Rabi in the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on January 23, 2019. (YouTube/Screen capture)

The Supreme Court on Sunday approved the restrictive release of an Israeli teen charged with killing a Palestinian woman, rejecting an appeal from the State Prosecutor’s Office.

The 16-year-old, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of having caused the death of a Palestinian mother, Aisha Rabi, by hurling a heavy rock at the windshield of her car as she traveled with her husband and daughter near the northern West Bank’s Tapuah Junction on October 12. His DNA was found on the rock.

The teen will be released to house arrest at his grandparents’ home in the central city of Kfar Saba, where he will be required to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, be under the 24/7 supervision of two adult family guardians, and have no contact whatsoever with non-family members.

Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein rejected the argument of the prosecution, which claimed that the suspect posed too serious a danger to society to be released. The state argued that if a Palestinian terror attack were to occur while the accused is out of prison, he would try to carry out a reprisal act, which the suspect had argued was justified during psychiatric examinations following his arrest.

A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)

Stein said he was convinced that the terms the Lod District Court set for the teen’s release “will significantly reduce — almost to zero — the likelihood that the defendant will commit an act of violence motivated by hatred of Arabs.”

The justice argued that it was the court’s responsibility to use prison only as a last resort.

However, Stein clarified that “anyone who puts the sanctity of life at the top of his values ​​cannot help but be shocked by the cruel, barbaric act that killed the deceased in the prime of her life.”

He said that Rabi had been killed by the stone, contradicting a legal opinion written by the chief pathologist of the National Center of Forensic Medicine and submitted by the defense to the Lod District Court last week.

Dr. Hen Kugel argued that Rabi’s injuries were too severe to have been caused by the strike of one rock. However, his conclusions were not supported by the majority of his colleagues, with only two others of the seven pathologists who examined Rabi’s death reaching his same conclusion.

Far-right activists protest the continued detention of the prime suspect in the killing of Aisha Rabi outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on January 23, 2018. (Liat Bracha)

Earlier this year, the suspect, a student at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim, was charged with manslaughter, aggravated stone throwing at a moving vehicle, and intentional sabotage of a vehicle. Each of the charges is connected to the killing of Rabi, a mother of eight, and was qualified as having been carried out “in the context of a terrorist act.”

If convicted, the teen could face considerable jail time; a manslaughter terrorism conviction alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars. Due to apparent limits imposed on prosecutors by the available evidence, the suspect avoided murder charges, which would have put him at risk of a life sentence.

According to the charge sheet, the suspect departed from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva accompanied by several other students late on the evening of October 12, a Friday.

The group arrived at a hilltop between the Rehelim Junction and the Tapuah Junction, overlooking Route 60 — the West Bank’s main north-south artery. The suspect then hurled a large rock weighing roughly two kilograms (4.4 pounds) at a Palestinian vehicle, “out of an ideological motive of racism and hostility toward Arabs everywhere,” the indictment said.

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