Ze'evi assassin sentenced to life

Plus 20 consecutive years for a string of other attacks; other cell members already sentenced.

rehavam zeevi 224.88 (photo credit: Rehavam Ze'evi memorial site)
rehavam zeevi 224.88
(photo credit: Rehavam Ze'evi memorial site)
A second Palestinian assassin of the late tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison and an additional 20 years by the Jerusalem District Court. Basel al-Asmar was convicted of murder, attempted murder and membership in a terror organization by the same court last month. Ze'evi's other assassin, Hamdi Quran, was previously sentenced to two life terms by the court in December. The two killers were taken into Israeli custody in 2006 and put on trial after international monitors left the West Bank prison where they were previously held. Ze'evi was gunned down at a Jerusalem hotel on October 17, 2001 as he returned to his room after breakfasting with his wife. With Asmar at his side, Quran shot Ze'evi three times in the head. The judges noted that Asmar, who was supposed to murder any bodyguard accompanying Ze'evi, later expressed jealously that Quran got to kill Ze'evi and that he did not not, thus rejecting a defense argument that he only served as an accomplice. "We have no doubt that Asmar fully cooperated with Hamdi Quran in perpetrating the crime and had a major contribution to the act," Judges Moshe Ravid, Orit Efal-Gabai and Aharon Farkash wrote in their ruling. The cabinet minister, who had refused to be accompanied by a bodyguard and was fatally wounded in the head and neck, slumped to the floor, where he was discovered some minutes later by his wife, Yael. Her cries alerted hotel guests, who had heard a thud but no shots, as the assailants had used a silencer. His killers quickly fled the scene, escaping to the nearby West Bank. Ze'evi was rushed to Hadassah-University Hospital at Ein Kerem but was pronounced dead some two hours later, after all resuscitation efforts failed. After the suspects in the assassination were surrounded by Israeli forces during an IDF raid in Ramallah, the two were incarcerated by Palestinian police in Jericho under British and American supervision in accordance with a 2002 deal reached between US President George W. Bush and former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Two years ago, Israel decided to capture the four cell members suspected of taking part in the killing due to the Palestinian Authority's violation of agreements concerning their imprisonment. But, in an unexpected legal blow, Israel's attorney-general ruled that there was insufficient evidence to try the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, who was also nabbed in the raid in which the cell members were captured.