Court convicts Eritrean refugees for Levinsky Park robbery

According to indictment, “Christian” Domus and Habtamri Tabfagber carried out the robbery when they attacked the complainant, stole his cellphone and wallet.

arrest  311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
arrest 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard )
The Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday found two Eritrean men guilty of committing a robbery in the city’s Levinsky Park.
According to the indictment, “Christian” Domus and Habtamri Tabfagber carried out the robbery in the early hours of March 3, 2011, when they attacked the complainant and stole his cellphone and wallet.
The two men denied carrying out the robbery, and testified that they did not know each other.
Evidence against the two men included an eyewitness, who identified Domus as one of the robbers.
Although it had been dark at the time of the robbery, the eyewitness said that he had been only a meter or two away from the crime.
He had identified Domus 20 minutes after the event.
In court, police also testified that Tabfagber had been found with the victim’s cellphone minutes after the robbery.
In court, Tabfagber said he had found the cellphone on the floor in Tel Aviv’s central bus station, but testified that it had fallen out of the pocket of someone who had been running away.
During the hearing, Judge Judith Amsterdam also criticized the fact that since the two defendants are Tigrinya speakers who do not understand Hebrew, their initial police investigation had been conducted in Arabic, a language that the men do not understand properly.
According to Domus’s lawyer, public defense attorney Alaa Masarwe, Domus had not understood all the details of that first initial police investigation.
Although the first defendant is named in all court documents as “Christian Domus,” Masarwe told The Jerusalem Post that “Christian” is in fact the defendant’s religion and not his name, and Domus had not understood when he was asked for his name.
Masarwe also said that the conviction had been based on the eyewitness identification of Domus, which he contended was flawed.
Nic Schlagman, humanitarian coordinator and program manager at the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv, told the Post on Sunday that the translation problem was “unsurprising.”
“It is not a surprise to hear that the courts are not doing their best to ensure that refugees don’t have the same access to justice as ordinary Israelis,” Schlagman said, adding that the police have noted that crime among the refugee community is relatively low, despite the many difficulties faced by this population.