By DAN IZENBERG
The state appealed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday against the decision of the Tel Aviv District Court in the case of Assi Abutbul, who was convicted of heading a crime organization and sentenced to 13 years in jail. The state argued that the sentence was not harsh enough in light of the crimes for which he was convicted.
At the same time, the state also asked for harsher sentences against Albert Sitbon, Gabriel Asor and David Zuaretz, who were convicted of being "directors" in Abutbul's crime organization and Barak Bofman, who was Abutbul's lawyer.
The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Sitbon to 11 years, Asor to eight years, Bofman to five years and Zuaretz to seven years in prison.
The state also asked the court to convict Bofman of also being a "director" in Abutbul's organization.
Abutbul and his henchmen were convicted of a long list of charges of extortion against French or French-Israeli businessmen and Israeli businessmen. The indictment included 22 separate incidents, although not every defendant was convicted of every charge.
The only one who was not convicted of belonging to the crime organization was Bofman. The district court wrote, "We reached the conclusion that given the relatively small period of time that Bofman acted on behalf of the crime organization, it is doubtful whether his awareness and criminal intention to be a director had had time to formulate."
The state wrote in its appeal that the district court had erred in its judgment. It quoted from the decision of the district court itself to press its case. "Sitbon and Bofman renewed their social relations which became so strong that Bofman became a "director" of the crime organization who directed operations at the same time that he provided legal and other advice," the court wrote in the judgment.
Regarding the punishment meted out to the defendants, the state called on the Supreme Court to "make them significantly stiffer" without asking for a specific sentence. Before the original sentences were handed down, the state had asked the Tel Aviv District Court to sentence Abutbul to 25 years.
In arguing her case, attorney Efrat Barzilai, head of the Criminal Section of the State Attorney's Office wrote, "The acts of extortion were characterized by threatening looks, threatening pronouncements, hooliganism, shouts and in some cases physical violence. This is the kind of conduct that is typical of hardened criminals who make the lives of their victims miserable and spread fear in the community.
"This is how this behavior should be understood and it should be punished accordingly."
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