The Haifa District on Monday convicted four out of seven defendants tried for the lynching of Eden Natan Zada of attempted manslaughter. Two were convicted of aggravated battery and one defendant was acquitted.
"No self-respecting society will tolerate lynching even if the person committed a heinous crime," the verdict read. "Revenge is for God; punishment is for the judiciary."
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"Our hearts are with the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones because of this hateful murderous crime," judge Ilan Schiff said. "We find it hard to understand how a person decides to take lives and cause such suffering to families of innocents."
Defendants in court (Photo: Eran Gilvarg)
Natan Zada was beaten to death by a Shfaram mob after going on a murderous rampage in the northern Arab town, killing four people and wounded 22 others aboard a city bus.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the court in protest, expressing solidarity with the defendants. "The case was handled with anti-Arab racism," said Jamil Safouri, one of the defendants. "We are ordinary people and now I'm starting to think I am a murderer."
Protest outside Haifa court (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
On August 4, 2005, Natan Zada, an IDF soldier who had gone AWOL, opened fire at a bus in Shfaram, killing four people. He was then stopped by some of the passengers. Police officers who tried to remove him from the scene were unable to stop an angry mob from beating him to death.
"We can't forget this act of terror," said the mother of sisters Dina and Hazar Turki, who were killed in the attack. "The State and the court should have taken our feelings under consideration and forgo a conviction."
Waiting for the verdict in Shfaram (Photo: Mohamed Shinawi)
In June 2009, indictments were filed against seven Shfaram residents for attempted murder, aggravated assault on a police officer, obstruction of justice and rioting.
According to the indictment, each of the defendants assaulted the soldier, who was laying on the floor, with rocks and iron rods.
Hundreds of Shfaram residents called for an acquittal, gathering in an encampment in the city.
"The atmosphere here is very tense," said Mayor Nahed Khazam. "What happened in Shfaram, as then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon put it, was an act of terror."
Attorney Yaakov Menkin, who represents the Zada family said, "The family is completely heartbroken. They are hurt by the state that did not recognize their son as a fallen soldier, and for the mistreatment of the criminal case. This is a murder case but the charges were for minor offences. This act was recorded on footage, and everyone knows that the victim was alive but never made it to the police station alive."
"The defendants should have been convicted of murder. There was sufficient evidence to convict all suspects. It's inconceivable that an Israeli citizen, a soldier in uniform, is murdered, and the case ends with attempted manslaughter."
The attorney further added: "We hope the prosecution will appeal, the family was hoping for justice, and justice was not served."
The other side was equally displeased. Attorney Maher Talahmi, representing one of the defendants said, "We didn’t expect a conviction on such serious offences. The circumstances were clear, it was a terror attack."
MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) said, "We do not accept the verdict. This is convicting the victim. Had they been Jews they would have gotten a citation."
Ahiya Raved, Hassan Shaalan and Raanan Ben-Zur contributed to this report
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