Dad fears Israelis who burned teenage son to death may escape punishment

Hussein Abu Khudair reacts to the verdict in the trial of Israelis suspected of killing his son Muhammad, whose picture is seen on posters carried by supporters, outside the district in Jerusalem, 30 November.

Mahfouz Abu Turk APA images

Two Israeli minors were found guilty on Monday of the kidnapping and burning to death of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khudair in occupied East Jerusalem in July 2014.

But the victim’s family fears that the killers will yet escape any real punishment.

A ruling on the third suspect and alleged ringleader has been delayed.

The panel of three Israeli judges agreed that Yosef Haim Ben David, 31, carried out the killing, but are delaying their final ruling until January to reconsider a last-minute insanity plea.

The court had previously rejected Ben David’s insanity defense.

But the new motion, which includes a psychiatric evaluation, argues that he cannot be held responsible for his actions.

After Monday’s verdict, Muhammad’s father, Hussein Abu Khudair, told reporters, “How can the defendant, two days ago, a year and a half after the crime, bring a document claiming insanity?”

Judge Jacob Zaban said the late timing of the plea was “against regular and appropriate protocol,” but still agreed to consider it.

Sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khudair was kidnapped and killed in the early morning of 2 July 2014, the day after the funeral for three Israeli teenagers who had been kidnapped and killed while hitchhiking in the occupied West Bank.

Following the announcement that the Israeli teenagers’ bodies had been found, Israeli politicians made repeated calls for revenge.

Muhammad’s scorched body was found in a Jerusalem forest hours after his abduction.

An autopsy at Israel’s Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in the presence of a Palestinian pathologist found that the boy had been burned alive.

Carefully planned

At the beginning of the trial this summer, one of the teenage suspects, whose identities have not been released, described the grisly killing of Muhammad.

He testified that the three had spent hours driving around, looking for a victim. He said Ben David, who was driving, stopped next to five “small children” before finding Muhammad.

They snatched Muhammad outside a mosque near his home in occupied East Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood, drove into a forest and smashed Muhammad’s head with a crowbar before burning him alive.

The two minors blamed Ben David for planning the attack, claiming they were “emotionally dependent” on the older man.

A still image from a security camera video shows two of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of Muhammad Abu Khudair.

One of the young men said Ben David had given them pills “to calm us down,” and that they had tried to get out of the situation.

The judge found that the two youths beat Abu Khudair unconscious in the back seat while Ben David drove into the forest.

Zaban found that the two young accomplices doused Muhammad with gasoline and that Ben David lit the match.

Ben David did not testify at trial, but last summer he admitted to carrying out the murder in revenge for the killing of the three Israeli teenagers.

Unequal justice

Muhammad’s parents attended every court hearing since the trial began.

Hussein Abu Khudair asked, “Why haven’t they demolished the homes of these three murderers?”

He was referring to Israel’s policy of demolishing the homes of relatives of Palestinians merely suspected of violent acts, a form of collective punishment that is illegal under international law and never used against Jews.

“The court behaves one way with Arabs and another way with Jews,” Abu Khudair said. “It’s all lies and I worry that the court will free them in the end.”

In a stark case of Israel’s unequal justice, an Israeli Border Police officer was this month sentenced to just six weeks of community service for the savage beating of Palestinian American teenager Tariq Abukhdeir.

The attack on Tariq, the day after his cousin and friend Muhammad Abu Khudair was killed, was caught on video.

Ayman Odeh, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who sits in the Israeli parliament as head of the Joint List, said, “The state is sending a clear message of forgiveness and understanding when it comes to Jewish terror.”

Under Israeli law, minors cannot be convicted before a review board endorses the verdict.

This contrasts sharply with the abuses Israel routinely practices against Palestinian children living under occupation in the West Bank who are subjected to torture, solitary confinement, harsh interrogation and military tribunals.

Israel has a mandatory life sentence for adults convicted of murder.

Haifa University legal expert Emanuel Gross told the Associated Press that minors found guilty of murder can be held for life, but the punishment is frequently lighter.




“Why haven’t they demolished the homes of these three murderers?”
^ ^
When 'laws' are neglected to be applied equally,
and only target a portion of the population, that system is corrupt
and defiled.
The basic system of israel is but a fascist hierarchy, and not
the 'Holy-Land' by any means.

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.