Tel Aviv bus bomber convicted in plea bargain

Life sentence off the table for 19-year-old Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja.

TA bus bomb 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
TA bus bomb 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
Muhammad Abed al-Jaffer Nasser Mafarja has been convicted as part of a plea bargain deal of carrying out the notorious Tel Aviv bus bombing of November 2012 that wounded 26 people in the middle of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Mafarja, 19, was convicted on Monday in the Tel Aviv District Court after the prosecution dropped the harshest charge against him, and although he will likely be given an extended prison sentence, the dropped charge means a life sentence is off the table.
As part of the deal, the maximum sentence that the prosecution will request is 25 years. Mafarja’s lawyer, Laviv Habib, said he would seek a shorter sentence on the basis of Mafarja’s youth.
Habib said although Mafarja’s actions were “not simple, he was young, his failure was as a teenager who was not yet 18 at the time of the bombing, he was pressured by others and did not fully understand the consequences of his actions.”
Habib added that now Mafarja “is taking responsibility, has shown regret” and reasserted an earlier argument that the bomb was a “weak bomb” designed to convince the IDF to end its military actions in Gaza and “not primarily to kill.”
Pressed on Mafarja’s intent, Habib admitted that while Mafarja said he did not intend to kill, he knew it was a possible consequence of his actions, but in the end no one died, despite many injuries.
The prosecution agreed to drop the harshest charge, of aiding the enemy in a time of war, which could have carried a life sentence. They agreed to drop that charge because of Mafarja’s young age, the lack of fatalities, and that the charge would not necessarily guarantee a life sentence, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Post was also told that dropping the harshest charge did not come as a result of a lack of evidence.
Mafarja was convicted on the charges of performing an act that showed intent to assist an enemy, attempted murder, causing the explosion of explosive material and causing serious bodily harm.
The sentencing hearing was set for February 17 and the prosecution told the court it planned to bring victims and families of victims as witnesses to testify against Mafarja and to obtain the full 25-year sentence.
Originally from the West Bank, Mafarja was able to move within the Green Line and acquire Israeli identification documents after a family reunification.
According to prosecutors, on the morning of the bombing, Mafarja spent a few hours riding around on several different buses in Tel Aviv while carrying the bomb, looking for a bus full of passengers.
Eventually, he got on a crowded bus, Bus 142 from Ramat Gan to Tel Aviv.
Just before he arrived at a bus stop at the Ramat Gan industrial district, Mafarja activated the bomb and then left it on the third seat on the right side and got off the bus. He called one of his associates immediately afterward and told him that the bomb was in place. Minutes later, the bus arrived near the corner of Shaul Hamelech Boulevard and Henrietta Szold Street, where the bomb was detonated.
Prosecutors said after Mafarja got off the bus, he took a train from the Savidor Central Train Station back to Modi’in, where he returned to his job at the McDonald’s eatery in the Azrieli Mall.
The Shin Bet and police said that several hours after the bombing, they managed to arrest Mafarja and the other members of the Beit Likya-based cell.
Indictments have been filed against several other suspects who prosecutors claimed were part of the “military cell” from the Ramallah area, which they said also plotted to carry out suicide bombings and shooting attacks against politicians and soldiers.
In January, the Military Advocate-General’s Office filed an indictment with the West Bank Military Court of Judea against the alleged mastermind of the bus bombing, Ahmad Salah Ahmad Musa, a 25-year-old resident of Beit Likya