Last of Ze'evi killers gets life in prison

The last of the six Palestinians charged with the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001 was convicted on Monday of murder and membership in a terrorist organization and sentenced to life imprisonment plus five years. The defendant, Ahad Olma, who was the commander of the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was found guilty of planning and organizing Ze'evi's murder at Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel on October 17, 2001 and providing a safe haven for the killers. The assassination was in revenge for the IDF killing of PFLP leader Ali Tzabri (Abu Ali Mustafa) two months earlier. Olma claimed during the trial that he had nothing to do with Ze'evi's murder and that he was not a member of the PFLP but of a human rights organization called Damir. He was originally arrested by the Palestinian Authority in February 2002 in a safe home together with Hamdi Qu'ran and Basel Asmar, the two men who ambushed Ze'evi as he was on his way to his room. Qu'ran fired three bullets at Ze'evi from point blank range, killing him on the spot. Israel demanded that the suspects be handed over for trial. In April, 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, Israeli security forces learned that the suspects were hiding in the Mukata, the headquarters of the PA in Ramallah, which Israeli troops had besieged. Israel demanded that the PA hand over the suspects in return for withdrawing its troops. In the end, through international intervention, Israel agreed to a proposal whereby the suspects would be put in jail in Jericho and guarded 24 hours a day by American and British forces. On March 14, 2006, the American and British guards left the jail, charging that the PA was not sticking to the agreement reached with Israel four years earlier. On the same day, Israeli forces arrested the suspects and two other Palestinians and brought them to Israel, where they were put on trial and convicted. Judges Zvi Segal, Yoram Noam and Joseph Shapira wrote that they had reached "the conclusion that was clear, unequivocal and beyond a reasonable doubt that [Olma] was the principal perpetrator of the crime of murder."