The police have arrested three youths aged 15-17 for setting Judge Nasser Abu-Taha car ablaze last week,
it was cleared for publication Wednesday. Abu-Taha is Israel's first Bedouin judge and the attack was presumed to be either a hate-crime or revenge related to his work as a judge.
The three suspects have admitted to setting the car on fire, and even recreated the act for the police. Two of boys claimed they broke into the car, and then decided to burn it in a bid to destroy any fingerprints they might have left. The third youth claimed they set the vehicle on fire to prove they are "men".
Abu-Taha's car was set ablaze early last Wednesday morning outside his home in Omer, near Be'er Sheva.
Abu-Taha's incinerated car (Photo: Barel Efraim)
"At 3:45 am I hear a blast and I saw the car on fire, all the neighbors came outside, and I called the police and fire department," Abu-Taha said.
The investigation received top priority and within days police discovered that the car had been broken into and then burnt.
The three are known to the police for their role in past thefts. They stole two packs of cigarettes and some small change from the car and then left, but after a number of minutes returned, fearing they had left finger prints.
They then proceeded to attempt and set the car on fire, first by opening the gas tank and trying to light a spark with the car's lighter; when that failed they managed to light to back seat on fire and then fled the scene.
"Two of the suspects attempted to flee the area," a local police commander said, but "they were arrested en route to Tel Aviv."
Judge Nasser Abu-Taha
"This is a sensitive investigation," said a police spokesperson at the time of the original incident, adding that "the motive is still unclear. The judge himself doesn't know if the incident has any connection to his work. No one has made any threats against him and he hasn't received any messages or anything of the sort that express any intention to harm him."
"At the same time, this is a judge who's dealt with emotionally sensitive cases, and this investigation will receive top priority," concluded the spokesperson.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni responded to the news of the vandalism saying, "I spoke with Judge Abu-Taha this morning. The first sentence he said to me was, 'This won't deter us.' He's right. I would advise that criminals abandon the illusion that they will be allowed to discourage, threaten, or influence a judge in Israel."
Abu-Taha deals with cases of those already behind bars and among his other duties decides when prisoners may be released or kept in prison. Attorneys describe him as a decent and likeable, but emotional judge. Abu-Taha was assigned a personal security team for a short term in the past due to threats lodged against him.
Attorney Ori Bar Natan was surprised to hear that the Judge's car had been vandalized. "He is one of the most respected judges, and shows great courage in his work. He knows when to order a prisoner's release even in complicated cases."
"He is a humane judge, so that when he decides to extend a prisoner's sentence, he explains his decision to the accused as equals," said Natan.
Head of the Omer community council Pini Badash said at the time that, "I don't think that this event scared him. He is a seriously determined man. At the same time, this was a difficult and worrying incident. The people behind the vandalism are criminals who don't refuse to use any means."
"I have no doubt that the police will catch the culprits. This is an incident that's hard to prevent, especially if there is no previous knowledge of any threat," said Badash.