Israeli youth at a West Bank outpost. An Israeli youth from a Jerusalem religious institution will be indicted in the case of a killed Palestinian woman, Aysha Rabi..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein on Sunday ordered the release to house arrest of the Jewish minor currently on trial for the murder of a Palestinian woman last October in a stunning rejection of the state prosecution and a development which could potentially undermine the entire case.
Although the state prosecution put out a statement emphasizing the house arrest and the court-ordered limits on the minor’s communications, the ruling could undermine the narrative of the state prosecution and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regarding the case.
A source from the minor’s side said Thursday that there was a high chance that the Supreme Court would confirm a lower court’s decision earlier last week to release the minor, but when the court did not issue an immediate ruling, it was unclear what the result would be.
The fact that the state prosecution would not hazard an estimate of how the Supreme Court might rule in light of the closed door hearing on Thursday did bode well for the minor.
The first surprise ruling had come on Tuesday when the Lod District Court issued the decision to release the minor, whose identity is under gag order.
Even more surprising was the revelation the same day that the state’s forensic specialist, Chen Kugel, contradicted aspects of the prosecution’s case, most notably arguing that he does not believe that the Palestinian woman, Aysha Rabi, was killed by a rock.
According to the indictment filed by the state against the minor in January – based on finding the minor’s DNA on a rock found at the scene – the rock thrown by the minor killed Rabi.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that the state claims that Kugel did not invalidate that the minor’s DNA was on the rock, did not invalidate most of the state’s narrative regarding Rabi’s killing, and did not provide an alternative explanation as to what killed Rabi other than the rock.
In addition, the Post has learned that the state prosecutor will maintain that a Palestinian medical opinion, which supports the theory that the rock killed Rabi, should trump Kugel’s opinion on that point because the Palestinian expert had access to her body, while Kugel only had access to photographs.
Despite the state’s claims, the revelation that Kugel contradicted a central aspect of the case appears to have helped the minor gain his release to house arrest.
The series of developments were highly embarrassing for the state prosecution, especially when at the start of last week it had celebrated a ruling by the district court recognizing 16 pieces of evidence helping to prove its case.
The reasoning of the district court’s Tuesday decision was kept classified, so it was unclear if Kugel’s opinion had altered the court’s overall view, or how the court is weighing the other evidence versus this opinion.
But the timing looked damaging for the state, even as it claimed that Kugel’s opinion was before the court prior to Tuesday.
Rabi, a mother of nine, was hit by rocks and killed near the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank on October 12 while sitting in a car being driven by her husband.
From the start, there was testimony from the Palestinian side that Jewish rock-throwers were involved in the fatal incident.
The indictment also included charges for throwing a rock at a moving vehicle and causing intentional damage to property – both in terrorism circumstances.
According to the indictment, the minor and some friends from Yeshivat Pri Haaretz walked to the top of a hill meters from Route 60 on the evening of October 12, 2018.
The minor allegedly picked up a rock weighing nearly two kilograms with the intention of throwing it at a vehicle with a green and white Palestinian license plate being driven by an Arab.
Rabi and her family were driving on the highway at a speed of 100 kph.
As the car approached, the minor threw the rock toward the car with the intention of harming those in the vehicle.
The rock fatally hit Rabi in the head.
Her husband maintained control of the car despite the attack and the smashed window, potentially saving his life and the life of their young daughter.
He drove to the nearest PA hospital in Nablus.
Four other minors previously arrested by the Shin Bet were released months ago without explanation.
The Shin Bet was criticized for holding the minors for an extended period without them permitting them to see a lawyer.