First ‘lyncher’ of Eritrean during Beersheba attack given community service

Other defendants are expected to receive harsher sentences.

By
July 4, 2018 11:34
3 minute read.

Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter

Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter

The Beersheba District Court on Wednesday issued a first sentence in the case of the beating of an innocent Eritrean man who eventually died after a terrorist attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station in October 2015.

Referred to as a “lynch” by the Justice Ministry and by several political official at the time, David Muial was sentenced to a mere 100 days of community service along with a symbolic fine, but the Justice Ministry emphasized that he was the least involved of four defendants and that they expected harsher sentences for the others.

The ministry also emphasized the unique circumstances, saying Muial was afraid that the victim, Haptom Zarhum, had actually played a part in the developing terrorist attack.

In response to the sentence, a joint statement was put out by a group of human-rights organizations, saying: “The sentence imposed on David Moyal for the abuse of a helpless [man] is a disgrace to the value of the sanctity of life,” they wrote. “How is it possible that the punishment of a person who... was documented partaking in the cruel lynch that led to [an innocent man’s] death, would be a minimal fine and community service without any imprisonment? The court’s ruling... sends a disturbing message that the lives of asylum-seekers are not equal to the lives of ordinary citizens.”

In January 2016, the Southern District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against four men, including a soldier and prison guard for the beating.

IDF soldier Yaakov Shimba, prison guard Ronen Cohen, David Muial and Evyatar Dimri were all charged with causing grave bodily harm to Haptom Zarhum, 29, who was mistaken for a terrorist and died of gunshot wounds from several security guards, according to an autopsy report. The other defendants’ trials are close to ending, but will likely not be sentenced for several months. Muial’s case ended sooner after he cut a plea deal.

Zarhum also was captured on camera being brutally beaten by a mob that included the four defendants. Then-attorney-general Yehuda Weinstein and head State Attorney Shai Nitzan personally approved the indictment.

Because Zarhum’s death was caused by the gunshot wounds and not the beating, the charges were for striking him and not murder.

A fifth suspect, another prison guard, was cleared of criminal charges but recommended for disciplinary charges.

Four people, including Zarhum, were killed and another 10 wounded in the October 18, 2015 terrorist attack by Muhand al-Uqbi, an Israeli Beduin from Hura.

“We know the public is living under a great deal of pressure right now, but there are clear lines and we will not allow people to harm minorities or suspects,” then-acting police commissioner Asst.-Ch. Bentzi Sau had said about the incident in which Zarhum, who was first mistakenly shot by security guards and then set upon by bystanders, was kicked and had a metal bench dropped on his head after he was incapacitated and lying on the floor.

According to the indictment, Muial and Cohen both harmed Zarhum by placing a stool on him, while Shimba and Dimri harmed him by kicking him in the head and the upper body.

All of this occurred at a point when it was clear that Zarhum was no threat and badly wounded, bleeding out on the floor, the indictment stated.

When it was announced in November 2015 that the five suspects were under investigation, there was no announcement about prosecuting Zarhum’s shooter, but a Justice Ministry spokeswoman confirmed that he would not be prosecuted because an investigation had shown that his mistaken shooting of Zarhum was justified under the circumstances and was not based on extraneous considerations, such as his Eritrean ethnicity.

The Justice Ministry also indicated that security officials and civilians had tried to stop the five suspects from attacking Zarhum after he was lying wounded on the floor, but the five had persisted.

The Defense Ministry and National Insurance Institute have paid Zarhum’s family benefits granted to relatives of terrorist victims, even though the law holds that only Israeli residents, citizens or others who entered the country legally are eligible for such benefits.


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