Representatives from the US Department of Justice and State Department are
expected to attend a hearing in the Ofer Military Court on Sunday in the ongoing
trial of two Palestinian men charged with deliberately killing an American
citizen and his son last year.
Asher Palmer, 24, and his infant son
Yonatan were killed when their car overturned as they drove on Route 60 near
Kiryat Arba. The father and son were driving to meet Asher’s pregnant wife in
A police investigation revealed that the father and son were
murdered as the result of rock-throwing and not a car accident as the IDF
Two Palestinian men – Wa’al al- Arjeh and Ali
Saadeh, both from Halhoul near Hebron – were charged in the Ofer Military Court
with intentionally causing the deaths of Asher and Yonatan, equivalent to a
murder charge under civilian law. The offense is punishable by life in
A representative of the Palmer family said monitors from the US
State Department were present at the last hearing in the case on April 18, after
which the US Department of Justice told the Palmers it would also monitor the
Attorney Adrian Agassi, a former military court judge who is
representing the Palmer family, told The Jerusalem Post that the US does not
usually monitor overseas trials.
Public interest around the trial and the
fact that the military court stopped the US consul from attending one of the
early hearings, perhaps prompted the US authorities to attend the Palmer trial,
The charges against Arjeh and Saadeh include deliberately
stoning cars in order to cause death.
Significantly, the prosecution
alleges that the two men developed a novel method to use stones as lethal
missiles by hurling them from a fastmoving car.
The prosecution alleges
that Arjeh and Saadeh were both in a fast-moving car when one of them threw a
stone at the car Asher was driving, deliberately intending to cause the deaths
of the car’s occupants.
“Rocks thrown from a moving car have a far
greater velocity than if they were thrown by someone standing at the side of the
road,” Agassi noted.
The indictment against Arjeh and Saadeh alleges that
the two men used the stone-throwing method in other attacks.
charged with 30 offenses, including another attempted murder in which he
allegedly threw rocks at a bus in order to cause the deaths of
Saadeh was also indicted on charges of attempted murder,
conspiracy to murder and illegal military training. The indictment lists a total
of 23 charges against him, all related to attacks and security offenses in the
area, and including an attempt to fire an M-16 rifle at a passenger bus on Route
The military court will set a legal precedent if it finds the two
Palestinians guilty of deliberately causing the deaths of Asher and Yonatan,
Agassi said, because it will be the first time stone-throwing was used to
deliberately kill someone.
Four other Palestinian men are standing trial
alongside Arjeh and Saadeh on charges of being co-conspirators in the attack and
carrying out similar rock-throwing attacks on Road 60.
All six men are
from the same village and are allegedly part of a gang that used the rock
throwing from a fast-moving car method to carry out terror attacks, according to
Agassi added that because of the significance of the case, the
Palmer family is determined to see that the prosecution continue to push to
prove that Arjeh and Saadeh intentionally caused Asher’s and Yonatan’s deaths,
which will see both defendants sentenced to life in prison.
want the prosecution to give in and agree to a plea bargain with 20-year
sentences instead of life,” he said.
So far, the court has not heard the
defense arguments but lawyers for the two Palestinian men are expected to argue
that they did not intend to kill Asher and Yonatan when they threw the
Another Palestinian man, Shehada Awad Shehada Shatat was convicted
in March of stealing Asher’s gun after the deadly attack and sentenced to 10
months in prison – which the Palmer family slammed as far too
Shatat was apparently not connected to the stone throwers but
was driving on Road 60 when he saw Asher’s car overturn and crash. He stole
Asher’s gun, but did not call for an ambulance or attempt to help Asher and
Michael Palmer, Asher’s father, said after Shatat’s sentencing
that the military advocate-general had not told him that the hearing was to take
place, and so he could not attend and speak to the court before the
In a precedent-setting development, the prosecution appealed
the move and received permission for Michael Palmer to present a victim’s
affidavit to the court. The appeal hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in the Ofer
Military Court of Appeals.