Four months after the grisly slaying of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, his killers faced Jerusalem district court judges today to enter their pleas. Instead of responding to the charges, Yosef Haim Ben-David, the 29-year old settler from the Adam settlement and ringleader of the abduction, and two 16-year-old Israeli accomplices were all granted continuances. The trial was set to begin over the summer, however it was pushed back after defendants switched representation.
Today, lawyers for the three accused each presented their own arguments to stymie the court again.
Ben-David’s legal advocate asked for more time to order a mental health workup. Though Ben-David confessed to the crime in great detail including pre-meditation, he asserted that he may not be liable due to mental illness. His advocate requested an additional five-months from the three-judge panel. They granted him three weeks. The other two defendants sought procedural delays.
The lawyer for one of the teenage defendants said he was hired days ago by his client and was not briefed. The second youth’s attorney said while he was prepared to enter a plea, because the others were withholding pleas, he too would wait in the chance that their answers to jurists would influence his.
“Until now they are in jail, but is doesn’t mean they are going to stay in jail,” said the state’s attorney Uri Korv of the three defendants remand during the hearing. Korv is seeking a maximum sentence for Ben-David and a harsh conviction for the minors.
“I do not hope for anything from the Israeli court because it is a racist court,” said the deceased’s father Hussein Abu Khdeir, continuing, “It judges for the Israelis, not the Arabs.”
After his son’s killing, the elder Abu Khdeir’s life has been turned upside down. Israeli border police are perched outside of his house nightly. Until now, clashes continue disrupting the semblance of a quiet home life they once enjoyed in their leafy East Jerusalem suburb. Dozens of youngsters from the family have been arrested on charges of stone throwing. And to the family whose tragedy became intertwined with the war in Gaza, the court’s delay in moving past pre-trial signifies another let down.
“It is getting worse every day since Mohamed was kidnapped and killed,” said Hussein Abu Khdeir. His grief stricken wife, Suha Abu Khdeir called for the homes of the three killers to be demolished like those of Palestinians who commit crimes against Israel.
Until this past summer punitive home demolitions had been a retired policy of deterrence for the Israeli Defense Forces operating in the West Bank. But around the time of Abu Khdeir’s killing the policy was reinstated. It, however, has only been used against Palestinians as a punishment for the murder of Israelis.
“If they do it to the Arabs, I want the same thing,” said Suha Abu Khdeir leaving court distressed, “I want the rights of my son,” she continued.
Under police escort, while in the court’s corridors the two teens lifted their loose tee shirts overhead. Ben-David exited the trial room first, wearing a black and white tracksuit with sunny yellow sandals, and thick socks. His hair and beard were unkempt. He looked straight on to network cameras. This time Ben-David was silent. The last time he was before media at the arraignment he declared that he was “the messiah,” leading to questions whether spectators witnessed a performance or an actual display of insanity.
The two minors in the case have not yet been named because a gag has been placed on disclosing the identities of arrested youths. In court, they were simply each called “the defendant.”