The seven Shfaram residents were tried for beating Zada to death after the latter had killed four Shfaram residents on a bus in the city in August 2005.
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"In the same way three years ago they began with a murder charge, and then attempted murder and then attempted manslaughter, we expect the punishment to go down as well. This is not the end," Hatib said.
Supporters outside courtroom (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
Monday, the Haifa District convicted four out of seven defendants tried for the lynching of Zada – who had managed to kill four and wound 22 in a shooting rampage prior to his lynching – of attempted manslaughter. Two others were also convicted of aggravated battery and one defendant was acquitted all together.
Despite the ruling, the group continues to maintain its innocence.
Protest outside Haifa court (Photo: Avishag Shaar-Yeshuv)
"On that day I remember coming home from work. I saw a crowd of people so I rushed over there to see what was happening," Hatib recalls.
"I was one of thousands of people there – I just stood and watched. I only saw Natan Zada in pictures, not inside the bus. Investigators questioned 800 people in Shfaram and rolled it all into one package (so that) seven people will pay the price," he claimed.
"We are not guilty, we're regular people who are far from crime," Hatib insisted. "I will go to the Supreme Court if I don't get an acquittal."
Basan Kadri, who was convicted of attempted manslaughter, also expressed discontent from the court's ruling: "Seven years I waited to see what would happen to me because of this case, and today I received a sentence that I don't want to accept."
Kadri further noted that: "On that day I was far away from the bus, I stood like thousands of others. I arrived after the shooting, after people were killed and there was nobody on the bus. I never saw the soldier (Zada was an AWOL soldier at the time) and never shoved police officers.
"I didn't take part in anything, I'm innocent. I hate blood. To say that I attacked more than 15 police officers is just a lie.
"The last seven years destroyed my life. I have begun going to a psychologist, all of my hair has fallen out, I have begun taking medication to cope with it all. For the last seven years I have not worked, everyday at 9 am at arrive at court for deliberations which end at 4:30 pm. I had to be in every proceeding. I've never seen Zada's family in the courtroom."
'If it were up to Zada, they'd all be dead'
In the center of Shfaram a tent with all the pictures of Zada's victims was pitched. The Arab town's mayor, Nahed Khazem, together with a small number of residents were sitting inside and lamented the court's decision.
Waiting for the verdict in Shfaram (Photo: Mohamed Shinawi)
"Despite the fact that the murder charge was dropped, they were all charged with manslaughter, which is also a very serious offence," Khazem explained.
Khazem said that he expects the court to be lenient with their punishment. "The fact of the matter is that Zada came with the intent to perpetrate a terrorist act. We are lawful people and want the same law for Jews as for Arabs. In a different scenario the defendants would receive honors."
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