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Woman who assisted in killing abusive husband gets early release

After 22 years behind bars, Simona Mori paroled thanks to new sentencing guidelines for victims of domestic violence

Simona Mori (C) seen after her release from Neve Tirza prison in Ramle, on September 25, 2019 (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)
Simona Mori (C) seen after her release from Neve Tirza prison in Ramle, on September 25, 2019 (Avshalom Shoshoni/Flash90)

An Israeli woman who was sentenced to life in prison for aiding in the murder of her abusive husband was granted early release on Wednesday, after serving 22 years behind bars.

The Israel Prison Service’s special parole board authorized early release of 53-year-old Simona Mori at the recommendation of the State Attorney’s Office, who cited the “special circumstances” surrounding the case.

She was released from the Neve Tirza women’s prison in Ramle on Wednesday afternoon, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

“We are so excited, we’re all crying,” Mori’s daughter Bat El Mori told Hebrew-language media outlets after the decision was announced. “I don’t think I’ll believe it until I can look her in the eyes.”

“As someone who grew up with a psychopath father and a mother who did everything to protect us from him, I can tell you that that no person should have to go through what she had to,” Bat El Mori told the Kan news broadcaster.

“Everyday that he didn’t kill her was a miracle,” she added. “When my father died I wasn’t sad at all, I didn’t even cry.”

Mori was sentenced to life in prison in for helping her lover murder her husband, Shalom Rehavi, in November 1996.

During her trial, her attorneys told the court that Mori met her alcoholic husband as a teenager, and suffered years of violent abuse before she and her lover, a man named John Valencia, decided to kill him.

Mori admitted during her trial that she obtained the knife for Valencia, and then lured Rehavi to the basement of their Jaffa apartment building where he was waiting. Valencia stabbed Rehavi 14 times in front of Mori.

A female inmate at Neveh Tirza prison in Ramle (illustrative photo; credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)
A female inmate at Neveh Tirza prison in Ramle (illustrative: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Both Mori and Valencia were found guilty of conspiring to murder Rehavi and were sentenced to life terms. The pair appealed their sentence in 2001, but the request was rejected.

In mid 2019, new guidelines came into effect that redefined sentencing guidelines for offenders in special circumstances. The guidelines recommended a 15-year prison sentence for murders carried out as a direct result of ongoing domestic abuse and “severe mental and emotion distress.”

The new guidelines only apply retroactively only to offenders who were sentenced to the lesser crime of homicide (as opposed to murder) which initially did not apply to Mori.

Last year, Mori began a prison rehabilitation program in a bid to strengthen her case for early release, and got a job working in the kitchen of a Rishon Lezion restaurant several days a week.

In April, Mori filed a request for early release from the prison parole board with the backing of the the Committee for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Social Services Ministry and the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, but was turned down due to a behavioral infraction. (Mori earlier that week had acquired a phone card for a fellow inmate at Neveh Tirza)

But that denial was overturned on Wednesday, when prosecutors said they reconsidered the case, taking special consideration of the recommendations by social workers and prison authorities, who testified that Mori had completed her rehabilitation and that chances of her re-offending were small.

Dalal Daoud, right, seen after her release from prison in Ramle, June 20, 2019. (Flash90)

Earlier this year, Prisons Service Parole Board granted early release to Dalal Daoud, a woman who served 18 years at Neve Tirza for murdering her abusive husband.

President Reuven Rivlin commuted Daoud’s life term in 2017, but later that year the parole board rejected her early release, saying she needed more rehabilitation.

In June this year, after undergoing rehabilitation programs and getting the backing of State Attorney’s Office and the Committee for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the board approved Daoud’s release from prison.

Anti-domestic violence activists had long lobbied for Daoud and Mori’s release, saying the women were victims of physical and mental abuse by their husbands and were given little to no support by welfare authorities.

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