(photo credit: Knesset)
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Ahad Olma, one of four
Palestinians convicted of murdering then-tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi in
Jerusalem’s Hyatt Hotel in October 2001.
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Olma, who was head of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s “military wing” at the time of
the killing, was convicted in the Jerusalem District Court and sentenced to life
imprisonment in 2008.
Ze’evi was shot in the head at close range by the
four men shortly before 7 a.m. on October 17, 2001, as he was returning to his
room in the Hyatt after breakfasting with his wife.
He was rushed to
Hadassah University Medical Center, also on Mount Scopus, but died shortly after
Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) immediately
began to amass information about the four killers: Hamdi Quran, Basel al-Asmar,
Majdi Rahima Rimawi and Olma.
They were arrested by the Palestinian
Authority and imprisoned in Jericho, together with PFLP head Ahmed Saadat, whom
Israel accused of ordering Zeevi’s assassination. The five men were guarded by
American and British forces.
On March 14, 2006, the American and British
guards left the jail, saying that the PA was not adhering to an agreement
reached with Israel on the terrorists’ incarceration.
launched Operation Bringing Home the Goods, in which it raided the Jericho
prison and seized the five men.
Kuran, Asmar, Rimawai and Olma were all
convicted of murder and are currently serving their sentences, in Olma’s case 30
According to the charge sheet, Olma was in charge of planning and
executing Ze’evi’s assassination, which the PFLP claimed was in response to
Israel’s killing of PFLP secretary- general Abu Ali Mustafa.
conviction was mainly based on information given by witnesses to police and the
However, during the trial, in 2008, some witnesses recanted
their stories, and others refused to answer questions of the
Some of the witnesses claimed that they had incriminated
Olma only because he was already in detention and in order to conceal the
identities of others involved in the murder.
In his appeal to the Supreme
Court, Olma argued that the information these witnesses had given to the Israeli
authorities was not a basis on which to convict him.
Court Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Elyakim Rubenstein and Salim Joubran rejected
Olma’s arguments and ruled that the considerable, detailed information given by
the witnesses outside the court was internally consistent and supported by
“[Olma’s] conviction was based on many different
statements connecting him to the murder – from planning and preparations to
carry out the murder, hiring a car, and briefing members of the gang in a
meeting before their dispatch [to the Hyatt], through the murder itself and the
subsequent escape of the gang, including [Olma], and their later capture – as
well as his role as a senior official of the PFLP’s military wing,” Rivlin wrote
in his ruling.
“All these pieces tie together, support each other and
provide an evidentiary basis that Olma was unable to overcome.”