(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Three men who caused an explosion in a residential building in Acre in February 2014, which killed five people, were sentenced by the Haifa District Court on Wednesday in a plea deal for eight to 16 years for manslaughter and arson.
The three were indicted for multiple murders in two rounds, in April and October 2014, for causing three stories of a five-story building to collapse. Muhammad Jarhi was sentenced to 16 years for arson and manslaughter, while Zecharya A’zeiri and Omer Haluani were sentenced to eight years for aiding and abetting arson and manslaughter as well as conspiracy to commit a felony.
According to the indictments, Jarhi, Haluani and A’zeiri caused the explosion in order to eliminate an antenna on the building’s rooftop.
The Justice Ministry said it did not seek murder charges against the men because it ran into evidentiary difficulties in the case after the court had heard dozens of witnesses including expert witnesses.
The indictments said that in the past nearby residents had requested that Ahmad Badar, who owned the rooftop, remove the antenna, which they claimed was causing a number of local children in the area to get sick with cancer.
Lower-grade but somewhat violent attempts had even been made to tear the antenna down or burn it, said the indictments.
The indictments said the three men approached the building from a high floor on a nearby building where one of them resided. They poured flammable materials into the apartment unit that the antenna was on top of and lit the materials, said the indictments. The size of the subsequent fire and explosion appears to have caught even the defendants by surprise as all of them were caught in the explosion and falling debris, including needing to be rescued from the rubble.
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The victims were named as Muhammad Bader, 43, and his wife, Hanan, 38; Najah Sarhan, 51, and her husband, Riak, 55, as well as their son Nasser, eight.
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