TA hit-and-run suspect: We made a big mistake

Speaking to Channel 10 from France, Claude Issac says "We want to be in Israel, to go to the family and explain how much it hurts us too."

By JOANNA PARAS
September 18, 2011 22:32
4 minute read.
Hit-and-run victim Lee Zeitouni

Hit-and-run victim Lee Zeitouni 311. (photo credit: Courtesy: Facebook)

Israeli law enforcement officials were in close touch with their French counterparts on Sunday over how to bring to justice two French nationals who are suspected of fleeing to Paris after a lethal hit-and-run accident in Tel Aviv on Friday.

Although Israel and France have an extradition arrangement in place, law enforcement officials say authorities there usually place suspects on trial in French courts for offenses carried out abroad.

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A black BMW linked to the suspects struck and killed Lee Zeitouni, a 25-year-old Pilates instructor, as she walked to work in north Tel Aviv on Friday morning.

According to police, the suspects fled the scene, driving recklessly through red lights. Both then packed suitcases in a hurry, gathered family members together and flew to Paris.

Speaking to Channel 10 News from France on Sunday night, Claude Issac, 40, suspected of being behind the wheel when the jeep struck Zeitouni, said, “We made a big mistake, but not deliberately. I want the family of this girl to know this was an accident.”

He added, “We want to be in Israel, to go to the family and explain how much it hurts us too.

But what can we do today? We killed a Jewish woman who was 25.

For us this is the end of the world.

Our life is over. But we don't know what we can do.”

“I want to tell the whole of Israel... I am Jewish. I pray every day. My heart is hurt. I don’t know why God let me do something like this,” Issac said.

“We didn’t see her at all. If I would have seen her, I would have pressed on the brakes. But I saw her only when she was hit,” he added.

Issac said he did not know if he would return to Israel.

Tel Aviv state prosecutors are waiting for the police investigation to be complete before making a decision on whether to ask France to extradite the men to Israel or to try them in a French court, the Justice Ministry said.

“Despite reports to the contrary, Israel and France do have an extradition treaty, which is the European extradition treaty,” the Justice Ministry said.

“In general, France, like most European countries, does not extradite its citizens, but places them on trial in its territory for offenses committed, after evidence is made available,” the Justice Ministry added.

Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino said his organization was going “all that it could do” to bring the two suspects back to Israel.

“We’re taking a series of steps to try and get them here,” Danino said.

Issac, who is suspected of being behind the wheel during the accident, left his daughter in Tel Aviv in the care of a foreign worker before rushing to Ben-Gurion airport and boarding a flight to Paris with the jeep’s owner, 38-year-old Eric Rubic. Police in Israel were still searching for the vehicle and suspects when they left the country.

Hours after Issac departed, officers traced him to the building on Tel Aviv’s Maze Street, and waited in the home after concluding that a member of Issac’s family would return to retrieve the baby.

Issac’s wife landed in Israel from France on Saturday and found police officers waiting in her home with the baby and caretaker. She was reportedly unaware of the hit and run incident and her husband’s involvement.

Police urged her to call her fugitive husband, which she proceeded to do. A line of communications was then established between the suspect and police. Isaac told police he was consulting with a lawyer over his next course of action.

Zeitouni was on her way to a gym to give a class when she was struck by a black BMW sports utility vehicle on Pinkhas Street. She was killed instantly. Thousands of people gathered at Kibbutz Neve Or on Sunday for her funeral.

Police have asked any member of the public who witnessed the incident to come forward.

An accident between a bus and several cars in the Arnon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem left three people injured on Sunday night, one critically. During the accident, one car was forced under the wheels of the bus, and it took several minutes for emergency crews of paramedics, firefighters and police to rescue the two people trapped in the car.

Magen David Adom evacuated all of the injured to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. An 18-year-old man was injured critically, a 20- year-old man was injured seriously, and a 17-year-old teenager was injured lightly. The Jerusalem police’s traffic and transportation branch opened an investigation into the reasons for the accident.


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