Julien Sofir, suspected of the racially motivated murder of an Arab taxi driver, made his first appearance in court Tuesday afternoon, displaying seemingly irrational behavior that backed up defense claims that he is unfit to stand trial. Sofir, who has recently become religious, appeared in court without a head covering and continued to make faces and clap his hands, sticking out his tongue at reporters covering the event.
Karaki family: There should be no difference between Jewish and Arab blood
Both Sofir, 25, and his younger brother Jonathan, 21, appeared in the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court for a remand extension. Sofir's attorneys, Tal Gabbai and Yehuda Freid, emphasized that their client was "unable to differentiate between right and wrong" and thus should undergo psychological examination.
If their claims are supported by court-appointed psychologists, Sofir may not face trial at all, but rather remand to a psychiatric facility.
Police said Tuesday that after a day of investigating the killing of taxi driver Tayseer Karaki, they had pieced together the timetable of events that led to the murder.
Sofir, they said, had gone to Jerusalem, where he hired Karaki to drive him back to Tel Aviv. But instead of driving directly to Tel Aviv, they drove first to Netanya, where Sofir allegedly stopped at Jonathan's Rehov Shoham apartment. There, Sofir allegedly entered the apartment and picked up the knife that was used shortly later to commit the murder.
When the two arrived in Tel Aviv, they entered Sofir's Rehov Yonah Hanavi residence, where Sofir slit the throat of the father of five.
Police believe that Sofir left Karaki lying in a pool of blood and drove his taxi to Netanya, where he picked up Jonathan and brought him back to Tel Aviv.
"I came after the act," Jonathan Sofir said Tuesday in court. "I was with my girlfriend."
Not long afterwards, police stopped the two on Rehov Allenby. They aroused the suspicions of the patrol by walking down the middle of a busy road, the patrol sergeant said.
Police who were at the scene said a day later that other than the fact that the two seemed "a bit disconnected or high," Julien Sofir had not demonstrated any of the bizarre behavior he did in court.
But sources close to Sofer said that for months now, the French immigrant's psychological state had been declining. He and his wife - who is now in France - had separated, and friends noticed that he had begun to turn to mysticism.
Sofer's wife said in a telephone conversation with InfoLife TV that she had alerted police on multiple occasions to her husband's mental decline, but that her pleas had gone unanswered.
Although Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court Judge Muki Lendman extended Sofir's remand by 10 days, he concurred with the defense's position and ruled that Sofir be sent for psychiatric observation.
Meanwhile, Sofir's parents were expected to arrive in Israel to support their sons, both of whom will remain behind bars for the near future.
Jonathan Sofir requested that he be released in order to help his parents during the difficult time, but his request was rejected.