Israeli neo-Nazis get 1 to 7 years in jail

Members get 1 to 7 years in jail; lawyers of minors: We'll appeal to High Court, request rehabilitation.

Hitler salute 248.88 (photo credit: Israel Police)
Hitler salute 248.88
(photo credit: Israel Police)
Eight members of a neo-Nazi group known as the "Petah Tikva Gang" were sentenced in Tel Aviv District Court to terms ranging from seven-and-a-half years to 15 months in prison for a series of assaults, including racially motivated attacks on Asian workers, haredim, blacks and homosexuals. Almost all the suspects reached a plea bargain with the state, including agreement on the sentence to be handed out, although in some cases the defense asked for lighter sentences than the state. In those cases, Judge Zvi Gorfinkel handed down sentences that were closer to the state's recommendation. Although the probation service found that most of the gang members had come from dysfunctional backgrounds, Gorfinkel wrote in his verdict, "The element of harshly condemning the actions is the key factor in this punishment and not the rehabilitation factor, even though the professional opinions regarding some of the defendants calls for rehabilitation. However, we absolutely cannot ignore the special circumstances involved in the violent incidents which are the subject of this indictment." The eight suspects included Eli Bunyatov, Alex Flich, Ilya Bonderenko, Vladimir Nizvetzov and Kiril Blankov. The other three were minors when the crimes were committed and their names are barred from publication. The ringleader of the gang, Dima Bugativ, was in the army when the members of the gang were arrested in August 2007 and managed to escape from Israel. The charges for which the defendants were convicted and sentenced included assault in aggravated circumstances from racist motivations, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a racist publication and publication of racist incitement. According to the second charge, Bunyatov, 21, Bonderenko, 22, Nizvetzov and Blankov conspired with Bugativ to attack Asian migrant workers, film the assault and disseminate it. One night, the five came to Tel Aviv. Bonderenko punched an Asian migrant worker in the face as the worker was talking on his cellular phone, while the others filmed the incident. Afterwards, they came across two Asian foreign workers. Bonderenko went up to them and pushed them while Bunyatov smashed a glass bottle over the head of one of the two. Bunyatov, (nicknamed "the Nazi,") who was also a key leader of the gang, was convicted on 10 of the 11 charges included in the indictment. Bonderenko was indicted in six. According to the probation service, "despite the regret that Bunyatov expressed, the probation service got the impression that the defendant has difficulty understanding the full consequences of the positions and emotions that led him to carry out these actions." He was sentenced to seven years in jail plus another six months for a suspended sentence which the court activated. Regarding Bonderenko, the probation service wrote, "The defendant is not mature enough to undergo a process that will help him reach awareness and depth in his treatment." Bonderenko was sentenced to five years. One of the minors asked the prosecution to give a longer jail sentence than it had intended to originally recommend to the court, so that he would be eligible for a special program called "Ofek," run jointly by the IDF and the Israel Prisons Service. Ofek allows prisoners who finish their term to go directly from jail to the army. The enlistment that the minor will be eligible for will take place in November 2009 and he will only be eligible for it if he is still in jail at that time.