An Israeli teen suspected of killing a Palestinian mother in a stoning attack claimed that DNA of his found on a stone tying him to the crime could have been residue from when he spit or urinated while taking walks through the West Bank, according to testimony released by his attorneys on Monday.
The suspect, 16, was charged in January in the death of Aisha Rabi, 47, who was killed in October when a car she was traveling in was stoned by Israeli Jewish extremists, according to police.
Prosecutors said DNA belonging to the suspect was found on a stone that hit the Palestinian vehicle.
The suspect, who cannot be named because of privacy laws protecting minors, told investigators that he followed the teaching of 18th century Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, whose adherents take solo meditative walks through nature as part of their faith.
He said his DNA could have wound up on the rock during one of those sojourns or another time he was making his way through the West Bank’s scrubland.
“I smoke which causes me to spit a lot. I may have spat and (the saliva) fell on a stone, or maybe once in the last year and a half — during which I hiked and worked a great deal in the fields (of the northern West Bank) — I urinated on some rock or maybe I cut myself on a rock while collecting wood… I don’t know, maybe some crazy person picked up that rock and killed an Arab,” he postured.
The comments came shortly after prosecutors announced they intended to indict him, after he had refused to speak to interrogators for two weeks after his arrest.
At a remand hearing in Lod Monday, the suspect’s attorney claimed that experts could only tie his client to the rock, not the crime.
“Forensic experts that were questioned by the police say that the DNA found on the stone does not indicate that the defendant committed an offense but that the young man lived where the stone had been placed,” he argued.
The killing of Rabi, a mother of eight, was the most serious incident of suspected Jewish terror since the 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian home in Duma in the northern West Bank.
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 and was qualified as having been carried out “in the context of a terrorist act.”
If convicted, the suspect 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.
While records from interrogations conducted by the Shin Bet security service without the suspect’s lawyer present remain sealed, the teen’s attorney released a transcript of his testimony from another interrogation where he had been present, during the Monday at the Lod District Court.
During that questioning, the suspect passionately maintained his innocence and said his faith prohibited him from throwing rocks at cars as it was a desecration of Shabbat and the prohibition against killing.
“Ask anyone you want (and they’ll tell you) that I chose to live a life of Torah. I learn a lot and want to grow up to become a rabbi. I’m not someone who gets into this nonsense,” the teen asserted. “I take advantage of my Sabbath eves by studying Torah, not by going and doing foolish things.”
Asked by an interrogator about pictures on his phone which showed Palestinian property damaged in hate-crime attacks, the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, and the logo of Kahane’s banned Kach movement, he maintained they were “just photos.”
The teen was ordered to remain behind bars until the next hearing, on April 8.
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 grabbed a large rock weighing roughly two kilograms (4.4 pounds) and prepared to hurl it at a Palestinian vehicle, “out of an ideological motive of racism and hostility toward Arabs everywhere,” the indictment stated.
At the same time Rabi, her husband and their nine-year-old daughter were traveling from the Rehelim Junction toward the Tapuah Junction on their way home to the village of Biddya.
According to the indictment, the suspect, identifying the car as Palestinian by its license plates, hurled the rock at the vehicle, which was traveling at a speed of roughly 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph).
It smashed through the windshield of the passenger side and struck the woman in the head. Rabi’s husband managed to maintain control of the vehicle, calm his panicking daughter and speed to a nearby Nablus clinic, where his wife was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.