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Suspect in Arab teen’s murder claims insanity

Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of three Jews accused in slaying, says he cannot respond to indictement due to his mental condition

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Police escort Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the District Court in Jerusalem after his arrest in July, 2014. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police escort Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the District Court in Jerusalem after his arrest in July, 2014. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The prime suspect in the murder of Palestinian teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir claimed he is not mentally fit to respond to the charges against him in court, while the two other suspects in the case both offered reasons why they are not responsible for the death.

During an appearance in the Jerusalem District Court on Monday, Yosef Haim Ben-David said he was unable to respond to the murder charge due to his psychological condition, Ynet news website reported.

A second suspect, who cannot be named as he is still a minor, denied the murder allegation and claimed that he was sitting in a waiting car during the entire incident that happened on July 2.

The third suspect, also a minor, admitted taking part in the violence that led to Abu Khdeir’s murder but claimed he didn’t intend to murder the teenager and did not think his actions would lead to his death.

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2, 2014, in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)
16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2, 2014, in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

Ben-David, 29 was indicted for the murder later in July and told police in his investigation that watching the funerals of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered by Palestinians in the West Bank on June 12 – Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach — had sparked the decision to seek revenge.

According to testimony given by Ben-David during questioning, he admitted to the crime and described in detail how he and his two accomplices randomly selected Abu Khdeir, 16, as a victim and pulled him into their car. They then took the teen to an area in the Jerusalem forest where they beat him and choked him before setting him on fire. According to a corner’s report, Abu Khdeir was still alive when he was torched by suspects. His scorched body was later found in the forest sparking a manhunt to find the killers.

Ben-David, 29, is a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam and owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem. His lawyers have sought to declare him temporarily insane. The other two suspects are 16 years old — one from Jerusalem, the other from Beit Shemesh. According to the indictment, Ben-David and one of the minors have a history of mental illness and are presently on medication.

The kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens along with the kidnap and murder of Abu Khdeir, among other factors, sparked a 50-day war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas as well as riots in Jerusalem that have steadily increased in ferocity over the summer and autumn.

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