Anger over insanity plea as two Israeli youths found guilty of burning boy alive
A Jerusalem court has convicted two Israeli youths in the grisly killing of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, whose slaying was part of a chain of events that led to last year's Gaza war.
The court delayed the verdict for the third and chief suspect in the case due to a last-minute insanity plea, sparking claims that Israel is too lenient with Jewish assailants.
The court found the two Israeli minors guilty of killing Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped, beaten unconscious and then burned alive in July 2014. Their names were not released under Israeli law. The sentencing of the two is expected in mid-January.
The delay of the verdict for suspected ringleader Yosef Haim Ben David (31), infuriated many Palestinians, who contend that Israel is too lenient on Jewish offenders while dealing harshly with Palestinians.
Abu Khdeir's father, Hussein, denounced the proceedings yesterday. "This is a lie," he told Israeli Army Radio. "I am afraid that the court will release them in the end."
An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was "unprecedented" for the court to accept the insanity plea the day of the verdict, rather than during the subsequent appeal.
"This development shows that the first defendant in this case will be either acquitted or gets a mitigation excuse," Ahmad Rwaidi said.
In his ruling, Judge Jacob Zaban determined that Ben David and the two minors snatched Abu Khdeir off an east Jerusalem street in July 2014 and burned him alive in a forest west of the city.
The judge found that Ben David drove the car while the two youths beat Abu Khdeir unconscious in the back seat. Once they reached the forest, one accomplice helped Ben David douse Abu Khdeir with petrol. Then Ben David lit the match, according to Zaban.
The three suspects were arrested shortly after the July 2, 2014 abduction and confessed to the killing. The three said that Abu Khdeir's slaying was in revenge for the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens - Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel - by Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
The deaths of the three Israelis triggered an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. Hamas responded with rocket fire on Israel, which escalated into a 50-day war.