The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday found two Eritrean men guilty of
committing a robbery in the city’s Levinsky Park.
According to the
indictment, “Christian” Domus and Habtamri Tabfagber carried out the robbery in
the early hours of March 3, 2011, when they attacked the complainant and stole
his cellphone and wallet.
The two men denied carrying out the robbery,
and testified that they did not know each other.
Evidence against the two
men included an eyewitness, who identified Domus as one of the
Although it had been dark at the time of the robbery, the
eyewitness said that he had been only a meter or two away from the
He had identified Domus 20 minutes after the event.
court, police also testified that Tabfagber had been found with the victim’s
cellphone minutes after the robbery.
In court, Tabfagber said he had
found the cellphone on the floor in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, but
testified that it had fallen out of the pocket of someone who had been running
During the hearing, Judge Judith Amsterdam also criticized the fact
that since the two defendants are Tigrinya speakers who do not understand
Hebrew, their initial police investigation had been conducted in Arabic, a
language that the men do not understand properly.
According to Domus’s
lawyer, public defense attorney Alaa Masarwe, Domus had not understood all the
details of that first initial police investigation.
Although the first
defendant is named in all court documents as “Christian Domus,” Masarwe told The
that “Christian” is in fact the defendant’s religion and not his
name, and Domus had not understood when he was asked for his
Masarwe also said that the conviction had been based on the
eyewitness identification of Domus, which he contended was flawed.
Schlagman, humanitarian coordinator and program manager at the African Refugee
Development Center in Tel Aviv, told the Post on Sunday that the translation
problem was “unsurprising.”
“It is not a surprise to hear that the courts
are not doing their best to ensure that refugees don’t have the same access to
justice as ordinary Israelis,” Schlagman said, adding that the police have noted
that crime among the refugee community is relatively low, despite the many
difficulties faced by this population.