tzahi ben-or 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The Tel Aviv District Court amended a plea arrangement on Wednesday that the Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office had reached with the two suspects in the murder of cop-turned-hatchet man Tzahi Ben-Or.
The three judges said that while they were unable to amend the charges, they could invoke a seldom-exercised authority to change the terms of the agreement made with Eran Hiya and Gadi Hazan.
Hiya and Hazan shot Ben-Or to death in his Cancun, Mexico, hideout and slit the throat of his South American girlfriend, Joana Darli, before leaving her for dead.
Hiya, who knew Ben-Or in Israel, was allegedly sent by the Perinian brothers to silence the would-be state's witness.
Judges Yeshayahu Shendler, Bracha Ofir-Tom and Miriyam Sokolov said prosecutors had not adequately explained why such a sensitive and important case, upon which the police had expended so many resources, had ended in a plea bargain rather than a trial. The investigation of the Ben-Or murder was one of the two main focuses of the Zeiler Commission's inquiries.
The judges were highly critical of the amended indictment that was agreed upon by the prosecution and defense. They said the description of the facts of the case was unclear and illogical.
The amended indictment states that Ben-Or was killed, but does not say by whom. It goes on to say that immediately after Ben-Or was killed, Hiya and Hazan entered the adjacent room, where Darli was sleeping, and brutally attacked her. It gives no reason for the attack.
The court wrote that since the indictment made no connection between Ben-Or's murder and the attack on Darli, and does not charge anyone with the murder, there was no reason to mention it. However, since the murder is included in the indictment, there must be some relationship between the murder and the attack, the ruling continued.
It added that it was the court's responsibility to determine the sentence of a convicted suspect even where there is a plea bargain, to find the right balance between the rights of the suspect and the need to protect society. In this case, the judges felt the agreement between the state and the defense had not struck the proper balance, given the facts included in the indictment.
Thus, the court ruled that Hiya, believed to be the trigger man, will now serve 13 years in prison and two suspended, and that Hazan will serve six years in prison and another two suspended.
Under the original plea agreement, Hiya was to serve eight years and Hazan four after they confessed to "causing severe injuries" to Darli in exchange for Ben-Or's murder being dropped from the charge sheet. They agreed to pay Darli NIS 60,000 in compensation and NIS 30,000 each as a fine.
The DA's office said that they had requested evidence from the Mexican authorities who investigated the case, but never received it, hamstringing their ability to build a strong murder case against Hiya and Hazan. They also said that some of Darli's testimony seemed to contradict some of her previous statements.
Both representatives of the DA's office and of the defendants are expected to appeal the District Court decision.