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Israel's criminal justice system delivers unreasonably light sentences against dangerous criminals, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said Wednesday.
"The question screams out, asking: In these days, has not the balance between the rights of the criminal and the rights of society been disturbed?" he said at Beit Hanassi during a hanukkia-lighting ceremony honoring 26 police and volunteers for their efforts in protecting the public against what many fear is a growing crime wave.
"Punishment, which is supposed to complete the work of the police, must be made to adapt to the reality of life in Israel today," Dichter said.
But the person at the center of Wednesday evening's events was not present at the ceremony: one of the honorees, Sgt.-Maj. Shlomo Asoulin, 28, has been in a coma since January after being stabbed by a criminal he was trying to arrest.
Described during the ceremony as "a quiet policeman, mild-mannered and full of leadership ability and good interpersonal relations," the Kiryat Malachi resident and father of two preschool-age daughters was stabbed in the head by Tarb Abu Issa, a criminal who was supposed to be under house arrest.
"This incident reveals in its fullest severity the light punishment meted out to criminals in Israel," Dichter told the attendees, who included police officers and Asoulin's parents and wife, who received his citation.
"A criminal who was trampling the law and even despoiling it was released to house arrest at a family member's residence," Dichter said.
He described how prior to his earlier arrest, Abu Issa had led police on a 200-kph chase through downtown Beersheba, speeding through at least three red lights in his effort to evade capture.
"Why was a criminal who had proven with his actions that the lives of others were cheap in his eyes, certainly less valuable than his own, not placed behind bars - official and not virtual - in order to ensure that he would not return and harm law-abiding citizens and police officers enforcing the law? Are the media that publish the decisions of the judges not succeeding in passing on to the halls of justice the screams of victims and the lightness of punishment?"
Dichter also responded to the case of the Nahariya police officers accused of planting explosives against organized crime figures, describing their actions as a symptom of the imbalance in society between the power of criminals and the abilities granted to police.
"The scandal that was revealed raises a issue unparalleled in importance: the need of the police to receive extra legislative and operational tools to fight serious crime. We all demand that the police fight against serious crime without making concessions, and thus we all must strengthen the police so they can offer a greater deterrence factor toward criminals."
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