A Haifa resident, 37, was sentenced on Monday to four years in prison after he was convicted of setting fire to his mother’s neighbors's house.
According to the ruling, the acts were racist in nature, as the defendant addressed the race of the victims, who are of Ethiopian origin, while committing the acts for which he was tried.
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The trial focused on incidents that took place in 2011-2012, in the first of which the defendant was piling wood and furniture on the lawn in front of his mother’s building and set them on fire. The victims then stepped outside and tried to extinguish the fire but the defendant prevented them from doing so, while crying out: “I’ll get a knife and you’ll be finished… you Sudanese, I’ll burn you.”
In another incident, he threatened the neighbors saying “Ethiopians, I’ll set you on fire,” and in a third incident he set fire to the tire of one of the neighbors’ car. Once the fire was out, he fled the scene and reiterated his threat to "burn all the Ethiopians in the building.”
During the trial, it was revealed that the defendant had perpetrated the crimes under the influence of alcohol and that he had been convicted several times over the past 20 years.
The defendant expressed remorse and burst into tears in the courtroom, saying that he and his family were struggling financially, and attributed his outbursts to his “anger over his mother’s withholding of financial aid during his economic distress.”
Judge Diana Sela nonetheless pointed to the racial aspect of the offenses, noting that the defendant’s “explanation is incongruent with the content of his comments in three incidents… there is no explanation as to why his threats were not directed at his mother, but at her neighbors of Ethiopian origin.”
The judge added that “the atmosphere arising from the defendant’s comments suggests that these were hate crimes that stemmed from racism, which must be uprooted. Everywhere, and specifically in the State of Israel, which was destined to harbor all Jews, we must eliminate the freedom some people allow themselves to hurt, including physical and verbal violence, perpetrated only due to someone else’s origin or race, belief or orientation.”
In addition to four years in prison, the defendant was sentenced to 15 years probation and will compensate the owner of the car that was vandalized by NIS 7,000 (roughly $1,900).
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