Two of the three convicted murderers in the Muhammad Abu Khdeir case were sentenced Thursday in the Jerusalem District Court.
The first, a 17-year-old, received a life sentence plus three years, and the second, age 16, received 21 years. Their names are still under a gag order.
The third murderer, Yosef Haim Ben-David, was not sentenced and is still attempting an insanity plea.
While the life sentence for one minor was issued in a unanimous 3-0 decision, the judges split 2-1 on the 21-year sentence for the second minor, with Judges Jacob Zaban and Rivka Friedman-Feldman voting for 21 years and Judge Raphael Carmel voting for a life sentence.
Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Shuafat in northeastern Jerusalem, was abducted, burned and brutally murdered on July 2, 2014, while waiting to enter a mosque.
The murder was carried out as a nationalist revenge killing following the well-publicized kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers in June 2014.
News coverage of Abu Khdeir’s slaying led to Arab riots throughout east Jerusalem and the rest of the country.
The two minors also received fines. The minor who was given a life sentence, was also fined NIS 30,000, to be paid to the family of Abu Khdeir, and NIS 5,000, to be paid to the Zalum family, whose son he had earlier attempted to kidnap. The three years on top of the life sentence related to the Zalum attempted kidnapping incident.
The minor who was sentenced to 21 years in prison was fined NIS 30,000, to be paid to the family of Abu Khdeir, but nothing to the Zalum family as he was not involved in that incident.
The fact that he was not involved in prior kidnapping attempts and was inside a car while Abu Khdeir was killed and did not take part in the actual act of murder were the main reasons he was given a more lenient sentence.
Additional reasons included that the social worker who reviewed their cases found the first minor to be more confident and to have had a greater sense of what he had done, while the second minor had a history of mental instability and did not seem to fully comprehend what he had been involved in.
In contrast, Carmel said that all of the leniency considerations should have been outweighed by the brutality of the murder, which the second minor had substantial time to stop and failed to stop. He also aided in physically subduing Abu Khdeir as he struggled to escape initially.
Ahead of Thursday’s sentencing, there was speculation that the convicted minors might get as little as 15 years in prison since they are underage and claimed they were under the influence of Ben-David.
In the case of Abu Khdeir, the indictment alleged that Ben-David drove the car used in the attack, while both minors attacked and threw the victim into the vehicle.
The ringleader in the 2014 murder of Abu Khdeir, Ben-David, has claimed insanity.
Upon hearing the sentencing, Abu Khdeir’s mother burst into tears and went on a fiery tirade saying there is no justice in Israel.
The father of the murdered teen said: “We don’t accept the decision, we’re going to the Supreme Court,” to appeal the 16-year-old convict’s 21-year prison sentence.
Abu Khdeir’s father added that the court should order the demolition of the homes of the convicted defendants, like the state does to the homes of Arab terrorists.
The lawyer for the Abu Khdeir family said that even though the second minor stayed in the car during the actual killing, the court convicted him of first degree murder because of the brutality of the act. He added that the court should not have used its discretion to sentence him to anything less than life in prison.
Jerusalem Deputy District-Attorney Uri Korb responded to the sentences saying, “No punishment can compensate the victims, but Israel is a country of justice, it deals with terrorism the same whether dealing with one group or another [Jews or Arab]. The punishment encompasses the barbaric murder of the child who was killed only because of his background. We asked for life in prison for both minors; [the court] gave life in prison to one of the minors.”
When asked whether there would be an appeal of the 21-year sentence, the leaning of the prosecution, which unlike the family has the power to appeal, was against such a move.
Asked about demolishing the houses of the murderers’ families, Korb deflected the question saying it is not within his power as a prosecutor, but that Abu Khdeir’s family could request this from the government.
Meanwhile, the defense attorney for the minor who received the 21-year sentence said the court was wrong to convict his client of murder, but the shorter sentence was appropriate as it took into account that he was not directly involved in the actual murder.
He added that an appeal of the conviction was being considered.
On November 30, a three-judge panel found all three defendants perpetrated the murder of Abu Khdeir, but delayed formally convicting the adult, Ben-David, after an unprecedented 11th-hour insanity plea.
Throughout a yearlong trial, Ben-David claimed insanity, but he never filed a psychiatric report that could give his plea a chance.
Until the November 30 hearing, there was little doubt that Ben-David would be convicted by the three-judge panel of Zaban, Friedman-Feldman and Carmel with the insanity plea having nothing legal to stand on.
But right before the verdict, Ben-David’s lawyer, Asher Ohayon, shocked the courtroom, having quietly (without notice to the public) produced to the court an insanity plea psychiatric opinion just in time for the verdict.
Although such conduct is not allowed according to legal procedure, because Ben-David was not yet convicted, the court decided it will review the opinion.
The court then, at the November 30 hearing, convicted the two minor defendants, one from Jerusalem and one from Beit Shemesh, of murder, kidnapping and a range of other offenses, despite their protests that only Ben-David committed the murder, and that they only intended to rough up Abu Khdeir.
Following the indictment of the three, the Defense Ministry recognized Abu Khdeir as a victim of hostile action, granting his family identical compensation rights as the victims of Arab terrorism – assuming its decision is also adopted by the National Insurance Institute.
Then-attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein called the murder a “horrifying act,” and praised law enforcement for the swiftness with which it arrested the three defendants.
During the murder, Abu Khdeir tried to call his uncle, attempted to escape and even kicked one of the defendants in the face before they overpowered him.
The defendants partially strangled and struck Abu Khdeir on the head multiple times, as Ben-David called out the names of murdered Jews, such as Shalhevet Pass, the Fogel family, Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel.
Next, Ben-David told the minors to burn his body to erase evidence and they doused him with gasoline and started to burn him while he was still alive.
The three defendants had confessed that the murder had been an act of revenge following the murder of the three teenagers (Shaer, Yifrah and Fraenkel).
Police found Abu Khdeir’s badly burned remains approximately one hour after he was reported kidnapped.