Court convicts 2nd Ze'evi assassin

Man convicted of assisting Hamdi Quran, who was sentenced to life for murdering cabinet minister.

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday convicted Basel al-Asmar of assassinating former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Al-Asmar was convicted of being an accomplice to Hamdi Quran, who was sentenced last month to two life terms in prison and an additional 100 years by the Jerusalem District Court. In the verdict, the judges wrote that "there is no doubt that al-Asmar contributed greatly to the assassination. It is clear that al-Asmar and Hamdi worked together." Ze'evi was gunned down outside his Jerusalem hotel room on October 17, 2001 as he returned from breakfast with his wife. His killers quickly fled the scene, escaping to the nearby West Bank as part of their well-planned attack. Ze'evi was rushed to Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem, where he was pronounced dead two hours later. Quran told the court he was instructed by a member of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to murder Ze'evi in the beginning of 2001, contradicting previous claims by the small terror organization that they had carried out the murder in retaliation for Israel's killing of a PFLP leader in his Ramallah office weeks earlier. That assassinated terrorist had been behind a series of bombings. The assassin, who never expressed remorse, testified in court that after spotting Ze'evi in the hotel's dining room, he and al-Asmar took their positions near the elevator on the floor of Ze'evi's room, where they shot him three times in the head before fleeing. "Murdering a minister differs from murdering an ordinary citizen by the fact that it constitutes direct harm to a symbol of the State and harms its sovereignty," the three-judge panel wrote in their sentencing. "Not only has the defendant shown no remorse for his actions, but he has declared before the court that he would not hesitate to repeat them." After the murder, Quran was incarcerated by Palestinian police in Jericho under British and American supervision in accordance with a 2002 deal reached between President Bush and the former prime minister Ariel Sharon, after he and several other suspects in the assassination were surrounded by IDF forces during a raid in Ramallah. Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.