Julien Soufir, who murdered Arab taxi driver Taisir Karaki of Jerusalem in Tel Aviv two years ago, was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial by the city's Magistrate's Court on Thursday, and was ordered to be hospitalized.
Karaki's family was outraged by the decision and caused a riot in the courtroom after it was read.
The murder occurred in May 2007, when Soufir stopped a cab in Jerusalem, and after ascertaining that the driver was Arab, he asked to be taken first to Netanya, and then to Tel Aviv, where he lured Karaki up to his brother's apartment and stabbed him 24 times in the neck, leaving him lifeless.
A psychiatric evaluation submitted to the court after the murder ruled that Soufir was not fit to stand trial for mental reasons. The Israel Prison Service gave its opinion, saying Soufir suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and the judges ruled that due to his illness, he was not in full possession of his faculties and therefore could not have prevented himself from committing the crime.
Karaki family in the courtroom (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Judges Sarah Dotan, Dalia Ganot and Shaul Shohat said the evidence in the case showed that Soufir's mental problems started from when he was 14-years-old and living in France, where he constantly carried a knife and threatened to kill anyone who crossed him or his mother.
"The defendant's mental disease was made clear when he enlisted in the military and was released after less than a month. Military psychiatrists who examined him did not diagnose him, but detailed all of the symptoms of his disease and were dismissed him from the service citing a Profile 21 code - mental incompatibility – and notified the proper bodies that he should be considered a danger.
"After his release, the defendant began behaving in a way that left no doubt as to his mental disease. This is evident in his sick behavior as reported by his friends, his wife's letters to his father and from police testimonies."
In addition, the judges said Soufir's continuous worsening behavior, such as making odd statements, dressing eccentrically, covering his face, saying he was the messiah and that he was commanded to do all sorts of acts by voices in his head, could not be ignored.
The judges said Soufir was consumed with hatred for his surroundings, and when the illness worsened, he was convinced that he should destroy the subject of his hatred – a Muslim Arab, and that he was commanded to do so by mysterious voices, hallucinations and false thoughts.
'An Arab would not be deemed crazy'It was ruled that the suit "did not lift the burden of removing the doubt raised by the defense regarding the causal relation between the defendant's disease and the murder", and therefore he was deemed unfit to stand trial.
The Karaki family, who was present in the courtroom and went wild after the verdict was read, had to be evacuated by courthouse guards. Karaki's sister said in court, "We will not sit quietly, this is a slaughterhouse, not a courthouse. Why is that? If an Arab were to murder a Jew or a Frenchman he would not be deemed crazy."
Soufir was ordered to be committed to a mental hospital, and will only be released when a psychiatric committee rules he is mentally fit. The State will not be able to pursue a murder indictment against Soufir in the future, since it was ruled that he was mentally unstable at the time of the murder.
A few months ago Ynet reported the victim's family will receive an allowance from the State, after Karaki was recognized as a victim of a hate crime.
After Soufir was indicted, the State Prosecutor's Office presented the Defense Ministry with documents on the suspect, at the request of the family, who asked their son be recognized as a victim of a hate crime, after Soufir repeatedly said the murder was racially motivated.