Two Israeli minors were convicted in a Jerusalem district court Thursday afternoon for the abduction and killing of a 16-year old Palestinian boy in July 2014. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was taken from outside of his home by three assailants who later poured gasoline on him, burned him alive, and left his body in a field.
One of the killers aged 17 was sentenced to life in prison for his role in pouring the incendiary material over Abu Khdeir, and the younger defendant aged 16 was sentenced to a lesser 21 years as the court ruled he participated in the kidnapping, but not the murder. Both were ordered to pay the surviving family around $7,500 in reparations.
The three judge panel explained in their decision the lesser sentence for the younger killer.
“His actions are also vicious, as he captured the deceased, prevented him from resisting, assisted in strangling him. But nevertheless, he did not take part physically in the last stage that led to his beating and the pouring of fuel or oil on his body,” the sentencing statement said.
In Israel the identities of minors accused of crimes is sealed. Such lengthy prison terms are rare for underage criminals in Israeli courts, even so the Abu Khdeir family is not satisfied with the ruling.
“We are really disappointed feeling sad and angry,” said Amsam Abu Khdeir hours after the judgment was issued. She hoped the court would issue additional punitive measures against the family members of the minors, and vowed her family would appeal for harsher punishment.
“We want to treat them as they treat any Palestinian, to demolish their houses, and withdraw their nationality, and to get a lifetime in prison. As they [the killers] prevent Mohammed from life, they should taste the same and whatever this court sentence is it won’t be enough for us. Nothing will bring Mohammed back to us. They burned him for the second time today” continued Abu Khdeir.
Over the past year with increased attacks by Palestinians on Israelis in political violence, Israeli courts have upheld the controversial practice of punitive home demolitions against the Palestinian attacker’s family. To date, Israel has not enforced the same policy of deterrence to violence crimes committed by Israeli attackers.
Disagreement on sentencing also existed within the three judge panel that made today’s ruling. Dissenting jurist Rafi Carmel issued a minority opinion in favor of a life sentence for both of the convicted.
“In circumstances where all lines of legality and morality are crossed, personal considerations [that led to the lighter sentence] must be rejected in light of the public interest and the need for uncompromising deterrence,” Carmel’s decision said, reported the Times of Israel.
A third accused of killing Abu Khdier, alleged ringleader Yosef Chaim Ben-David, 31, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam, is still awaiting sentencing. He was supposed to be the first of the three to receive punishment in court last month, however, his lawyers filed a petition for the judges to review a new physiological evaluation–Ben-David confessed to the crime days after the killing and led police on a reenactment tour across Jerusalem. His punishment will be issued in the coming days on February 11th.
The state’s attorney prosecuting the case is seeking another life sentence.