Asher and Yonatan Palmer.
(photo credit: Courtesy Kiryat Arba Local Council)
The Judea Military Court on Tuesday convicted Ali Saada of the murders of Asher Palmer, 25, and his baby son, Yonatan, in 2011.
Saada is the second defendant to be convicted of murder, following the previous conviction of Waal al-Arjeh for the same murders. Arjeh was sentenced to two life sentences plus an additional 58 years in prison in July 2013.
Arjeh’s conviction had set a legal precedent as it was the first time a military court has handed down a verdict of murder for rock-throwing, a precedent strengthened by the conviction of Saada.
The Palmer family’s lawyer Adrian Agassi said that six military court judges on two separate panels affirming the trend could be a powerful deterrent to this method of murder in the future.
He added that Saada was also convicted of 21 terrorist offenses, including six further attempted murder counts.
According to the IDF, Arjeh and Saada intentionally threw stones from a moving taxi, at least one of which went through the front windshield of Asher’s vehicle. The stone broke the windshield, causing Asher to lose control of the car that eventually overturned.
Initially, security forces thought Palmer and his son died in a car accident on Highway 60 outside Kiryat Arba on September 23, 2011. It took days before the Defense Ministry recognized them as terror victims.
Palmer’s father Michael spoke at Arjeh’s trial, recalling arriving at the family home to see “a gurney with Asher’s body wrapped in a tallit [prayer shawl], and a little box on top, in the box was Yonatan’s body.”
According to Agassi, this was not an incident in which a random small roadside stone was tossed. The object thrown at Palmer’s vehicle, he said, was more like a block, in that it was 18 cm. by 11 cm. and 5 cm. thick.
“It was thrown from an oncoming vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction. At that velocity, it was like shooting a bullet,” Agassi said.
Arjeh was the ringleader of a gang that developed this method of killing Jews, Agassi said. They had tried it many times before, he added. The attorney said that Arjeh had worked for the Palestinian Authority security forces as well as a taxi driver, and he knew the roads in the area very well.
Leading up to Arjeh’s sentencing, Palmer talked about an enduring picture in his mind of “Asher, Asher’s wife, Pua, and their son, Yonatan, sitting together on Shabbat,” and of the “tremendous love between father and son.”
He remarked that “Yonatan, like his dad, loved to smile, to be happy and he was just starting to talk – that is when Arjeh killed him.”
He said that Asher and Yonatan’s lives “were taken by people who did not know them, who had never even seen them, for the simple reason that they were Jews.”