Ringleader of group which killed Palestinian teen gets life in prison

Yosef Haim Ben David will spend the rest of his life behind bars following the decision by the Jerusalem District Court.

May 3, 2016 19:19
Abu Khdeir

Muhammad Abu Khdeir. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday sentenced Yosef Haim Ben David to life in prison plus 20 years for being the ringleader in the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir on July 2, 2014.

Despite admitting regret, saying, “I apologize and ask forgiveness,” the court threw the book at Ben David almost immediately after sentencing arguments concluded. The quick decision was unusual with courts usually taking days or even weeks to decide sentencing after hearing arguments from the sides.

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A lawyer for the Abu Khdeir family said he had filed a request with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to demolish the Ben David family house.

Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Arab from Shuafat in east Jerusalem was abducted, burned and brutally murdered on July 2, 2014 after being kidnapped by Ben David and two others.

News coverage of the slaying led to Arab riots throughout east Jerusalem and the rest of the country.

The court also ordered Ben David to pay NIS 150,000 to Abu Khdeir’s family and NIS 20,000 to the family of a Palestinian minor that he tried unsuccessfully to kidnap before murdering Abu Khdeir.

On April 19, despite an eleventh hour insanity plea in December, the Jerusalem District Court convicted Ben David of the murder.

Rejecting the insanity plea, the court wrote that, “at the time of the perpetrating of the crime, the accused was not psychotic, understood his actions well, was culpable for his actions, in control of them, had no disturbance in judging reality and had the ability to prevent commission of the crimes.”

Ben David’s lawyer, Asher Ohayon, attempted the same argument on Tuesday to try to convince the court to give Ben David a lenient sentence, claiming that he was psychotic, taking pills and not in control of his faculties when he committed the murder.

The court again rejected the arguments.

In February, the court sentenced two minors who had already been convicted of assisting Ben David with the murder – one to life in prison and one to 21 years in prison.

State prosecutor Uri Korb responded to the sentencing decision on Tuesday declaring that Ben David was, “the primary initiator, the defiler and the perpetrator of the murder... this was an incident which horrified the public across the country.” He added that any murderers for ideology of any religion should know that the long arm of the law will bring them to justice.

Responding to the conviction in April, MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) said the court “had reached the correct decision.” But at the same time, he attacked the absence of a process to demolish the house of Ben David at a press conference immediately after the verdict.

The Jerusalem Post asked Tibi if a formal request for a demolition had been filed as state prosecution officials said would need to be done.

He responded, “Has any lawyer in the past proposed to destroy a Palestinian house. It was an initiative from the prime minister, by the internal security minister and by the authorities, I think that they know this option.”

Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein, responded to the April conviction stating, “We knew from the start he was not crazy, he lied to the court and to us, he planned...

he tried to kidnap another Palestinian...

he was intelligent, we knew he was not crazy.”

In explaining its finding that Ben David was sane, the court in April rejected the opinion of Dr.

Jonathan Sirkin, who had said that Ben David was psychotic.

Ben David had been in therapy for an extended period prior to the murder and had been diagnosed as obsessive, but never psychotic.

Sirkin opined that Ben David’s therapist had misdiagnosed him.

The court said that both minor defendants testified that Ben David had been very logical and in control while orchestrating the murder and that Ben David had been very detailed when reconstructing the murder with law enforcement.

It added that examinations both before and after the murder by several professionals found him to be sane with no complaints of hearing voices or hallucinations, and at most fears of being caught and of the punishment he would face for the murder.

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, such as victims of suicide bombings – assuming its decision is also adopted by the National Insurance Institute.

Throughout a year-long trial, Ben David claimed insanity, but never filed a psychiatric report, which could give his plea a chance.

Coming into a December date for hearing the verdict, there was little doubt that Ben David would be convicted by the three-judge panel of Jacob Zavan, Rivkah Friedman-Feldman and Rafi Carmel with the insanity plea having nothing legal to stand on.

The indictment included charges against Ben David and one of the minors for attempting to kidnap seven-and-a-half yearold Musa Zalum of Beit Hanina and striking him and his mother, with whom he was walking – while she was pushing another one of her children in a stroller.

Ben-David drove the car, while the minor got out to attack the seven-and-a-half-year-old. They wore non-haredi (ultra-Orthodox) clothes to try to mask their identities during their attempts to kidnap Arabs.

There were separate charges for multiple attempts by the same two to burn Arab cars in Sur Bahir.

In the case of Abu Khdeir, the indictment alleged that Ben-David drove the car, while both minors attacked and threw the victim into the car.

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.

Ben David told the minors to burn his body to erase evidence, and that they doused him with gasoline and started to burn him while he was still alive.

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