It appears that nothing can legally be done to prevent the reentry to Israel in
a few months of convicted murderer Eli Cohen. He cannot be incarcerated, retried
or even denied parental rights. He gallingly beat the system, barring some
legislative amendments that would anyhow not be instant and not redress the
What Cohen, a dual Israeli-Australian citizen, did to
his ex-wife, the mother of his children, in Thailand in 2004 is the stuff of
He lured Carol Amsalem to Bangkok, tortured her with acid
and a hot iron, gruesomely butchered her, dismembered her, stuffed some of her
hideously mutilated remains in a suitcase and dumped them. Not all the remains
This was not a crime of passion but a premeditated
atrocity. The couple split up after Cohen demanded they move to Australia. Carol
Amsalem refused but, by all appearances, their divorce was
Cohen was sentenced to 150 years. Prison conditions in Thailand
are notoriously harsh yet occasionally, especially on royal birthdays, the king
As a result of the latest round of reprieves, Cohen is to
be set loose in mid-May. This is not the first time he benefited from
unaccountable leniency. Cohen’s sentence had recently been reduced, leaving him
with only three more years to serve. Hence the pardon merely hastened his early
This is where the typical Israeli phenomenon of seeking someone
specific to blame and vent anger upon comes to the fore. Carol Amsalem’s
justifiably shaken and outraged relatives are more than understandably up in
arms. They point fingers at Interior Minister Eli Yishai as someone who
effectively sprang Cohen.
Yishai hotly denies this and says he knowingly
never dealt with this particular case. What he did do is intercede on behalf of
assorted Israelis in general who find themselves behind Thai bars. Yishai has on
occasion been active in efforts to transfer Israeli prisoners from what is
indeed durance vile in Thailand and have them do their time here.
is nothing wrong with this; many countries try to move their nationals to their
Conditions here and elsewhere in the West may be more
humane than in Thailand, but at the same time inmates are not likely to walk out
for no compelling reason other than the arbitrary mood of the monarch.
is imperative that the good deed of looking after Israelis trapped in appalling
circumstances not be abandoned because of the utter travesty of the Cohen case.
Most of the Israelis sentenced to hard time in Thailand were prosecuted for drug
trafficking. The problem is that not all are guilty. Some were set up or were
Thai justice is not pedantic in protecting
defendants’ rights, and the prisons are survival of the fittest nightmares in
which abuse, malnutrition and disease proliferate.
One wrong should not
be allowed to spawn more but unrelated wrongs. It is wrong to let a monster like
Cohen out. It will be wrong to punish gullible young couriers or accused
couriers because of the unthinking compassion bestowed on the incontrovertibly
undeserving Cohen. We need a sense of proportion. Yishai is not the villain of
Unfortunately, Yishai cannot even keep Cohen out of Israel.
Legally speaking Cohen is free to head to either Australia or Israel, but here
is where he has family.
In strictly legal terms he has paid his dues and
concerns of double jeopardy prevent his retrial here.
there are no grounds for imprisoning him.
The only move that could be
taken against Cohen would be to revoke his parental rights, but that would hinge
on new legislation. At present a released felon, no matter how heinous his
crime, cannot be prevented from raising his children, much less from seeing
them. This is a dreadful legal loophole that ought to be plugged, although even
the swiftest efforts in that direction are unlikely to be of much use in this
This is a tragedy not of our making – a glaring instance
where our intuitive sense of right and wrong and the dry letter of the law do