Mohammed Abu Khdeir is seen in this undated family handout picture.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A seventh suspect was arrested on Tuesday morning in Jerusalem for the suspected revenge murder of east Jerusalem teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
According to a statement from Honenu, a nonprofit legal aid organization, the suspect’s attorney claimed that his client is innocent and filed for an emergency hearing in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court to have him released.
Although a gag order remains in place preventing police from commenting about the ongoing investigation of the Jewish nationalists charged with Abu Khdeir’s brutal killing on July 2, an official said on Tuesday that they will be prosecuted as terrorists.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, due to the gag order and sensitivity surrounding the case, the official said that while the suspects appeared to act independently, they will face a litany of charges, including belonging to a terrorist organization.
The official said other charges will include membership of a prohibited organization, committing a hate crime, murder of a minor, kidnapping with intent to murder, possession of illegal arms, conspiracy and theft.
“Even though they are not necessarily part of a terrorist group, they will be charged as if they are due to the seriousness of the murder,” the official said.
On Monday, three of the six suspects arrested earlier, aged between 16 and 22, confessed to the killing and reenacted the crime for police in the Jerusalem Forest, where Abu Khdeir’s badly burned corpse was found last week, the official said.
An autopsy report released by Israeli doctors and a Palestinian coroner on Saturday concluded that Abu Khdeir was burned alive.
According to reports, the night prior to Abu Khdeir’s abduction in the capital’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, three of the suspects unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap a nine-year-old child.
Meanwhile, the unidentified mother of one of one of the suspects told an area news organization Tuesday that her son is innocent.
“We are broken and are having a very difficult time with this business,” she told Ynet. “My son has nothing to do with it and will be released. It’s crazy, he’s only 16!” News of the murder set off a chain of riots throughout east Jerusalem.
Many Arabs, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, contended that Abu Khdeir was the victim of Jewish extremists incensed at the discovery last week of the remains of Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel.
Until recently, the six suspects, who are reportedly from Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and the West Bank settlement of Geva Binyamin (Adam), have been denied legal representation as Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents continued to interrogate them.
On Monday, one of the suspects met with his attorney for the first time since being arrested, who promptly declared his client innocent and filed for his release.
“I hope that tomorrow it will be possible to release my client,” the attorney said in court. “My client is not connected in any way to the event, except his blood relationship with some of the suspects.”
Following their arrests, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned them as “terrorists,” adding that “there is no place for those kind of murderers in Israeli society.”