Ze’evi assassin loses Supreme Court appeal

Ahad Olma was one of four terrorists who shot tourism minister in 2001.

Rehavam Zeevi (photo credit: Knesset)
Rehavam Zeevi
(photo credit: Knesset)
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Ahad Olma, one of four Palestinians convicted of murdering then-tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi in Jerusalem’s Hyatt Hotel in October 2001.
Olma, who was head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s “military wing” at the time of the killing, was convicted in the Jerusalem District Court and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008.
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Ze’evi was shot in the head at close range by the four men shortly before 7 a.m. on October 17, 2001, as he was returning to his room in the Hyatt after breakfasting with his wife.
He was rushed to Hadassah University Medical Center, also on Mount Scopus, but died shortly after arrival.
Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) immediately began to amass information about the four killers: Hamdi Quran, Basel al-Asmar, Majdi Rahima Rimawi and Olma.
They were arrested by the Palestinian Authority and imprisoned in Jericho, together with PFLP head Ahmed Saadat, whom Israel accused of ordering Zeevi’s assassination. The five men were guarded by American and British forces.
On March 14, 2006, the American and British guards left the jail, saying that the PA was not adhering to an agreement reached with Israel on the terrorists’ incarceration.
Israel then launched Operation Bringing Home the Goods, in which it raided the Jericho prison and seized the five men.
Kuran, Asmar, Rimawai and Olma were all convicted of murder and are currently serving their sentences, in Olma’s case 30 years.
According to the charge sheet, Olma was in charge of planning and executing Ze’evi’s assassination, which the PFLP claimed was in response to Israel’s killing of PFLP secretary- general Abu Ali Mustafa.
Olma’s conviction was mainly based on information given by witnesses to police and the Shin Bet.
However, during the trial, in 2008, some witnesses recanted their stories, and others refused to answer questions of the prosecution.
Some of the witnesses claimed that they had incriminated Olma only because he was already in detention and in order to conceal the identities of others involved in the murder.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Olma argued that the information these witnesses had given to the Israeli authorities was not a basis on which to convict him.
However, Supreme Court Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Elyakim Rubenstein and Salim Joubran rejected Olma’s arguments and ruled that the considerable, detailed information given by the witnesses outside the court was internally consistent and supported by external evidence.
“[Olma’s] conviction was based on many different statements connecting him to the murder – from planning and preparations to carry out the murder, hiring a car, and briefing members of the gang in a meeting before their dispatch [to the Hyatt], through the murder itself and the subsequent escape of the gang, including [Olma], and their later capture – as well as his role as a senior official of the PFLP’s military wing,” Rivlin wrote in his ruling.
“All these pieces tie together, support each other and provide an evidentiary basis that Olma was unable to overcome.”