Supreme Court acquits man serving life sentence

Zinati freed after top court says prosecution didn't prove beyond reasonable doubt his role in 2007 killing of businessman Yusuf Ali.

Supreme Court 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Supreme Court 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Supreme Court accepted on Wednesday the appeal of Hamed Zinati, an Abu Sinan resident sentenced to life in prison for the 2007 murder of businessman Yusuf Ali.
In overturning the lower court’s decision, the court found the prosecution had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zinati was guilty of the murder and accepted Zinati’s defense position that testimony against him from a third man arrested for the murder had been obtained under pressure from a police informant.
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Zinati, who has served four years in prison following his arrest and conviction in the Haifa District Court, was released following his acquittal.
While they acquitted Zinati, Supreme Court Justices Edmond Levy, Yoram Danziger and Salim Joubran denied the appeal of his codefendant and former business partner, Kamal Awid, who will continue to serve his life sentence for the murder.
Police discovered Yusuf Ali’s body near Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Western Galilee in July 2007. The scene had been arranged to look as if Ali had died in a car crash, but a postmortem examination revealed the businessman had in fact been strangled to death.
During the murder trial, police evidence revealed that the victim’s wife, Zaki Ali, had been having an affair with Awid.
At the same time, they discovered that Zintai had hired a private investigator to trail Awid, and threatened to reveal the affair unless Awid paid him.
Police arrested Awid three months after the murder, and shortly afterwards arrested one of his business associates, Salah Badawi. In prison, Badawi told his cellmate, a police informant, that Awid and Zintai killed Ali together.
Badawi was indicted separately in connection with the murder, and also sentenced to life.
However, in the appeal, the Supreme Court accepted the position of Zintai’s defense team, who argued that the police informer had put pressure on Badawi to testify that Zintai took part in the killing.
Defense attorneys Yoav Sapir and Moshe Srogovitz said that the District Court judges had erred in accepting Badawi’s testimony, part of which they had said was false.
The Supreme Court also criticized the prosecution and the police over a missing CD of evidence, which included details of the police informant’s actions with relation to Zinati and to Badawi’s testimony against him.
In ruling to reject Awid’s appeal, the panel of three justices ruled on Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence to prove his involvement in Ali’s death.
A murder conviction requires that the prosecution prove a killing was premeditated, and the Supreme Court ruled that in Awid’s case, evidence showed he planned the murder in advance.
The fact that Awid had strangled Ali to death meant that he could have decided to stop and not kill him, the court ruled.