Border policemen near Ramallah_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Jerusalem District Court sentenced border policeman Atta Marai to
seven-and-a-half years of imprisonment on Tuesday, following his conviction on
49 counts of bribery and breach of trust and one count of carrying out an act
that could spread disease.
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Marai was also fined NIS
According to the indictment, 32-year-old Marai had been a border
guard for 14 years and at the time of his arrest served as commander of the
al-Jib, or Givat Ze’ev, checkpoint.
Al-Jib is part of the “Jerusalem
envelope” series of checkpoints at various entrances from the West Bank into the
Marai, who was convicted under a plea bargain, admitted that,
together with two guards and a civilian accomplice, he took bribes from truck
drivers to allow them to pass through the checkpoint from the West Bank into
Israel without a security check.
The civilian accomplice paid Marai and
the two guards NIS 5,000 in cash for each vehicle.
Most of the vehicles
that Marai allowed to pass in this way were carrying cargo from the Palestinian
Authority, including eggs. Transferring agricultural produce, including meat,
eggs and dairy products, from the Palestinian Authoritycontrolled territories
into Israel is strictly forbidden because of disease risks.
court learned that border police have been unable to determine the cargo of some
of the vehicles Marai allowed to pass unchecked.
State prosecutor Ronen
Yitzhak had emphasized the security threat of trucks passing unchecked from the
Palestinian Authority, particularly since in many cases the contents of those
trucks is unknown.
In light of this, the prosecution had requested a
prison term of eight years.
The defense, in contrast, had asked for a
community service sentence and a minimum fine.
However, Judge Amnon Cohen
said that the harsh sentence and fine imposed on Marai reflects the serious
nature of his offenses and their large number.
Both the legislature and
the Supreme Court have sought to aggravate the punishment for bribery, the judge
“Compassion toward criminals such as the defendant only serves to
damage public trust and public service,” Cohen said.
The judge also took
into consideration testimony from Yehuda Yehoshua, the border guard commander in
charge of the “Jerusalem envelope” area.
Yehoshua told the court that the
system of checkpoints had been established after increased terror attacks in
The border guard commander testified that the state had
invested considerable resources into the “Jerusalem envelope,” including in the
training of border guards such as Marai.
However, according to Yehoshua,
corruption among border guards is high, because of the financial incentives of
accepting bribes and because the prison sentences handed down to officers
convicted of bribery are too light to be a deterrent to others.
no deterrence because an officer who breaks his trust does so even if his
colleagues were caught and go to jail for two years,” Yehoshua said. “It’s not
enough because we’re talking about money.”