(photo credit: Courtesy)
The state indicted 12 Israeli Arabs from Shfaram on Sunday, almost four years after an angry mob lynched Eden Natan Zada, who opened fire without provocation on bus passengers, killing four Israeli Arabs and wounding 10.
Seven of the suspects were charged with attempted murder, as well as assaulting a police officer in aggravated circumstances, hindering a policeman in the performance of his duties and causing riot damage.
Attempted murder carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The defendants charged with these crimes were Na'aman Bachus, Arkan Kurbaj, Munir Zakut, Basel Kadri, Basel Khatib, Fadi Nassrallah and Jamil Sfouri.
The other five defendants, indicted only on the last three charges, were Walid Tchimar, Shadi Marzouk, Malek Korbaj, Haitem Kharb and Fadi Sfouri.
In the August 4, 2005 incident, Zada, a 19-year-old soldier in uniform who had gone AWOL, boarded an Egged bus on its way from Haifa to Shfaram. When the bus stopped in the town's Druse neighborhood, he suddenly opened fire with his M-16 rifle, killing the bus driver and three other passengers and wounding the others.
Zada was a member of an extreme right-wing organization linked to the outlawed Kach movement.
The indictments, filed in the Haifa District and Haifa Magistrate's courts, described what happened after the killings.
"Passengers, assisted by passersby, overcame Zada to prevent him from shooting any more and took away his weapon. Police arrived at the scene to deal with the situation. Zada was handcuffed, and the police took his rifle," the indictment read.
"When word got out about what had happened, a large mob, angry and worried, gathered at the site and surrounded the bus. Some of them entered it through the doors and smashed windows and attacked Zada, hitting him with their fists, kicking him, and striking him with rocks and other items. The mob surrounding the bus also threw rocks, iron rods and other items into the bus, some of which hit Zada and the police.
"The police pushed the rioters out of the bus and tried to protect Zada, but the mob did not stop and went on attacking policemen and civilians who tried to help them. During the incident, there were cries to kill Zada for revenge.
"The riots and the attacks against Zada and the police lasted an hour and a half, during which time Zada was wounded and his condition deteriorated as the mob continued to attack."
The indictment went on to say that someone in the mob threw fuel into the bus to set it on fire. Afterward, some of the rioters broke into the bus again and attacked the policemen and Zada.
The investigation of the lynch began immediately, but it was only 10 months later that police arrested seven suspects, five of whom were among those charged with attempted murder on Sunday. In July 2006, they were placed under house arrest.
The suspects' arrest caused anger and unrest in the Israeli Arab community. A popular committee was established in Shfaram to fight the arrests.
Arab MKs, including Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), warned that indictments against Shfaram residents would lead to massive protests.
After hearing of the indictments on Sunday, the Israeli-Arab activist organization Mossawa charged that "the unfounded indictments against residents of Shfaram are a surrender to the pressure applied by the Kahanists and the extremist settlers who were behind the killing, which was perpetrated to prevent the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza."
The organization added that the actions of the Shfaram residents after the killings had been exactly like those of the policemen and civilians who made certain that the suspects in the tractor attacks on Jews in Jerusalem were dead, by shooting them in the head at close range.