adi azar 298 courtesy.
(photo credit: Israel Judiciary web site)
Jerusalem District Court on Thursday sentenced Yitzhak Tzeziashvilli and Rafi Nahmani to life imprisonment for the murder of Tel Aviv District Court judge Adi Azar as he arrived home from work on July 19, 2004.
The judges, Deputy District Court President Zvi Segal, Yoram Noam and Raphael Carmel ruled that the two would only begin to serve their life sentences after they complete the life sentence to which each has already been sentenced in two unrelated murder cases.
The court also sentenced Tzeziashvilli to five additional years, to be served after completing the two life sentences, for aiding Nahmani to escape from prison and giving Nahmani the same sentence for escaping from prison during his first jail furlough.
Tzeziashvilli was given five more years for another charge and Nahmani 10 years for several other charges, but this part of the sentence was to be carried out simultaneously.
Tzeziashvilli was the mastermind who organized Azar's murder from within prison. Nahmani was the hit man who pumped four bullets into Azar while he was still sitting in his car after arriving home. Through Assistant Public Defender David Weiner, who was representing him in another case, Tzeziashvilli offered to provide information about more planned attacks against judges in return for his release from prison. Weiner later committed suicide after being named as a witness in Tzeziashvilli's trial.
In its decision, the court wrote that "a series of facts has been laid before us that would be fitting for a horror movie. To our sorrow, this time it is fact. Two defendants, who are criminals in heart and soul, stretched out their murderous hands towards a senior judge, Adi Azar, whom they happened to come across and choose by chance, and murdered him in horrifyingly cold blood.
"It has been proven to us that feelings of loathing and frustration, as well as blind greed, motivated the defendants. Each of them acted according to his own interests. For them, values meant nothing."
The police expressed satisfaction with the verdict. Police sources said they hoped the state would take the judges' criticism seriously regarding the granting of furloughs to those serving life sentences, Israel Radio reported.
Tzeziashvilli and Nahmani met in prison. After Nahmani had completed seven years of his life sentence, he was given a 24-hour furlough from which he did not return. Instead, a friend of Tzeziashvilli drove him to Tzeziashvilli's parents' home. Soon afterwards, he escaped to Holland.
In a summary of the 223-page verdict, the judges wrote, "We should remember that the furlough granted the person who later killed the judge was based on a false guarantee stemming from a false affidavit signed in front of a lawyer. The lawyer could not properly verify the facts presented by the guarantor who wanted to help his prisoner friend. In these circumstances, the acquisition of a guarantee for the release of a prisoner on furlough is too easy. The time has come for the authorities to be more scrupulous about implementing the regulations regarding the release of prisoners who are a public menace."
Tzeziashvilli and Nahmani continued to insist they were innocent. Segal silenced Tzeziashvilli in the middle of the defendant's plea for a lighter sentence, as he was claiming that all he did was to try to prevent more judges from being killed out of regard for Weiner, who, at the time, was trying to obtain a new trial for him on his first murder conviction. Segal ordered Tzeziashvilli to sit down, stating that the time to present his version of the events had passed. During his investigation and trial, Tzeziashvilli had invoked the right to remain silent.
As the judge was silencing Tzeziashvilli, the defendant's father stood up and accused the court of conducting an unfair trial. Three court security officers ejected him from the courtroom.
Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office prosecutor Ziva Kendall welcomed the court's decision. "This was the right and appropriate decision," she said after the sentencing. "A judge was killed, his children left orphans, his wife a widow, and we lost a friend and judge who could have continued his successful judicial career."
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