(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The Palestinian man accused of beating his married, eight months pregnant Jewish girlfriend to death in Holon in May was indicted Sunday on first-degree murder charges at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.
The body of Michal Halimi, 29, of the West Bank settlement of Adam, was found by police at the end of July after her alleged Arab boyfriend, Muhammad Harouf, 29, of Nablus, confessed to strangling her and bashing her head in with concrete blocks.
While it was initially reported that Harouf killed Halimi for nationalistic reasons “to free Palestinian prisoners,” prosecutors on Sunday contended that the murder was the result of a domestic dispute.
However, Halimi’s husband and family vigorously deny that the two were romantically involved.
Police first received a report that Halimi was missing at the end of May and launched an investigation to find her.
According to the indictment, Harouf – who worked illegally as a gardener and custodian in Holon – met with Halimi in an isolated area of the Sand Dunes Park on May 28.
Shortly after greeting her, he choked her for 15 minutes, threw a concrete cylinder on her skull two times, and attempted to hide her corpse under dirt and a tire before stealing her purse and car, the indictment states.
Harouf, who attempted to withdraw cash from Halimi’s debit card, then drove to the West Bank village of Taybeh, where he contacted Atir Levisi, 20, of nearby Tulkarm. Levisi then paid him NIS 2,500 for the stolen vehicle, the indictment states.
Harouf was arrested when a Facebook post announcing their engagement was found by police. He subsequently confessed to killing her, and reconstructed the murder for investigators.
Halimi’s corpse was located on July 24.
While Harouf told police he murdered her for nationalistic purposes, prosecutors assert that he fabricated the story to receive money from the Palestinian Authority while in prison.
Halimi’s mother, Gita Zilberman, categorically denies that her daughter was romantically involved with Harouf, and claims, instead, that prosecutors are attempting to make the murder appear to be a domestic dispute to prevent Harouf from receiving the monthly stipend earmarked by the PA for terrorists serving prison sentences for killing Jews.
“We maintain that this was a murder for nationalist reasons and never romantic,” she told Walla News. “The state doesn’t want Michal’s murderer to be recognized as a nationalist murderer and his family to receive budgets and assistance from the Palestinian Authority.”
Harouf is also being charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, car theft, trading in a stolen vehicle, entering Israel without a permit and attempted credit card fraud.