An US-Israeli teen who was arrested in Israel on suspicion of making bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the United States, Australia and New Zealand is seen at a remand hearing at Magistrate's Court in Rishon Lezion, Israel on March 23, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The ringleader of a gang of six Beersheba Jews who carried out a number of violent attacks against Israeli Arabs in 2016 and 2017 was sentenced on Monday by the Beersheba District Court to five and a half years in prison.
Some of the harshest charges against Raz Amitzur were dropped as part of a plea deal, but the prosecution still insisted on substantial jail time.
Amitzur, along with five other Israeli Jews, including two soldiers and a minor, were indicted in April 2017 for the violent attacks in Beersheba.
Police alleged that the defendants, who were arrested in early April, carried out the attacks in an attempt to “prevent the assimilation of Jewish women with Arabs in Beersheba,” and said that the charges included terrorism.
The other central defendants besides Amitzur were Koren Elyakim and Tamir Bartal, whose cases are still ongoing.
The three less central defendants were listed as Sharon Dizanshuvili, Reuven Kosashvili and a minor whose name remains under a gag order, all of whom were indicted in the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court.
According to the indictment and police, the suspects carried out five violent attacks
against Arabs beginning in December 2016, the most severe of which was a stabbing on February 21 by Amitzur. Multiple defendants are also charged with torching the car of an Arab citizen.
The defendants also attacked another Israeli Arab on March 4 in a park in Beersheba’s Vav neighborhood.
Following their arrest on April 6, the suspects were questioned by police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Police said the attacks were nationalistic and racially motivated. During the investigation, authorities uncovered switchblades, iron bars and clubs said to have been used in the attacks.
Some of the suspects are said to have watched a video by the extreme-right group Lehava about “rescuing a Jew who married an Arab,” though none of them are formal members of the organization, police said.
Police also said the suspects specifically sought Arab citizens and ensured that they were indeed of Arab ethnicity.
Lawyers for the defendants and for the right-wing legal aid group Honenu, Sima Kochav and Avihai Hajbi, said in April 2017 that one of the defendants had tried to commit suicide due to the intensity of the interrogation techniques used on him by the Shin Bet.
“The Shin Bet conducts itself according to the law, under judicial supervision from the courts,” the security agency said in response. “Since we are referring to a pending legal proceeding, these claims will be clarified during the criminal proceeding.”
The agency refused to confirm or deny whether the defendant in question had actually tried to commit suicide.
The Honenu lawyers did not say that the Shin Bet had used torture, moderate physical pressure or “necessity” interrogations. However, they did say that the techniques used, as well as the prevention of the defendants from seeing their lawyers for an extended period, were legally problematic.
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