Uproar in court as man sentenced to 19 years for killing girlfriend
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Uproar in court as man sentenced to 19 years for killing girlfriend

Families of victim and defendant hurl abuse at each other during sentencing of Galilee man in plea bargain that saw charge downgraded from murder to manslaughter

Screen capture from video of Riad Rushrush, sentenced to 19 years in prison for killing Tehila Nagar, seen at the Nazareth District Court, November 21, 2019. (Wallas News)
Screen capture from video of Riad Rushrush, sentenced to 19 years in prison for killing Tehila Nagar, seen at the Nazareth District Court, November 21, 2019. (Wallas News)

The Nazareth District Court on Thursday sentenced a man to 19 years in prison for killing his girlfriend, in a plea bargain protested by the victim’s family who wanted him convicted of murder.

Riad Rushrush, 29, who was convicted of manslaughter earlier this year for the 2017 killing of Tehila Nagar, 31, was also ordered to pay NIS 258,000 ($74,600) to the family of his victim.

During the sentencing, members of Nagar’s and Rushrush’s families shouted at each other, interrupting the session.

Speaking to media after the sentencing, Nagar’s family said the prison term was not enough and that justice had not been served because, they insisted, Nagar had been murdered.

“He didn’t just kill my daughter, he murdered her,” Nagar’s tearful mother said. “In cold blood.”

Zahava Nagar said her husband could not face coming to court because he was so upset over Rushrush’s conviction of the lesser charge of manslaughter. A murder conviction would have made a life sentence possible, in Israel 25 years in prison.

Nagar’s sister Natalie Ahituv-Nagar said, “I think the court decision is wrong, it is totally unacceptable to us. Nineteen years, from the day he was arrested — that’s just a joke. He murdered her in cold blood.”

Ahituv-Nagar noted that in addition to killing her sister, Rushrush was accused of exploiting her financially and sexually, as well as physically abusing her on other occasions.

“This is an outrage,” she said. “The judges did not serve justice.”

Ahituv-Nagar told media that Rushrush and his family had shouted threats at her and her family in the courtroom and that they were concerned for their safety.

“My great fear is that in just a short time he will be released, he will be free,” she said.

Rushrush was indicted in early 2017 for murder in the death of Nagar, his girlfriend of a year and a half. His attorneys disputed the charge, arguing that the prosecution’s entire case was based on circumstantial evidence. In February 2019, state prosecutors admitted there were “legal difficulties” in their case, and announced the plea deal with downgraded charges.

Screen capture from video of Natalie Ahituv-Nagar center, and Zahava Nagar, center-right, speaking to media after the sentencing of the man convicted of murdering Tehila Nagar, November 21, 2019. (Twitter)

Rushrush, a resident of the mostly Druze and Arab town of Maghar in northern Israel, maintained his innocence throughout his trial, though friends and family members testified that he beat Nagar regularly.

Two weeks before her body was found dumped on the side of the road near the Galilee town of Migdal, Nagar’s family filed a police complaint against Rushrush for domestic violence.

Police arrested Rushrush and held him for several days, but were eventually forced to release him when Nagar refused to testify against him. The case against him was closed due to lack of evidence.

On the night of the killing, Rushrush allegedly convinced Nagar to meet him at a coffee shop in Tiberias to discuss their relationship. On their way home, prosecutors say, he stopped his vehicle at the side of Route 90, where he bludgeoned her to death.

Construction workers found her badly beaten body in bushes on the side of the road the next morning.

During the investigation, police found traces of blood inside his car.

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