Yosef Ben-David, the confessed murderer of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir last year, was not convicted on Monday by a panel of three judges. The panel acknowledged that he committed the charges, but said he could not be convicted at this time because of his mental state.
Three Israelis, including two minors, admitted to murdering Abu Khdeir last year. The two minors were found gulty on Monday and their conviction is to occur at a later date. The next hearing on Ben-David's sentence was scheduled for January 14, 2016.
The boy's father, Hussein, had said he would not be satisfied with a life sentence, even saying he would turn to the International Criminal Court in The Hague if the sentence is too light. He said following the sentencing: "This crime cannot wait in court for a year and a half and two days before resulting in an opinion that he's insane. Where was he a year ago? I'm afraid the court will acquit him. As your Ecclesiastes says, 'all is vanity'. I am afraid of more Ben-Davids appearing if the court doesn't deter them. I want their houses to be demolished."
Hussein Abu Khdeir, a consistent presence at the court proceedings against the three men, had said his family was nervous ahead of the sentencing. "It's very difficult for me to go to the courthouse," he said. "Every time we see my son's murderers, my blood boils. Israeli jails provide good conditions for serious offenders as well. The person who murdered Yitzhak Rabin is in a hotel. The government even allowed him to get married. Is that true punishment?"
The central defendant in the murder was Ben-David, a 31-year-old from Jerusalem. The two other defendants are minors. The three confessed to the murder during questioning and agreed to a reenactment.
They admitted to beating Abu Khdeir unconscious and then burning him to death using some kind of flammable material poured on the teen while he was alive. The trio's indictments claimed the murder was intended as vengeance for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens.
The indictment also determined that Abu Khdeir's killers had searched for a suitable victim for three hours before seeing Abu Khdeir at around 4 AM. The boy had decided to go to his mosque to pray. According to the indictment, the two minors held Abu Khdeir, who struggled, until Ben-David ordered one of them to "end him". One of the minors then strangled Abu Khdeir until he passed out.
The group arrived in the Jerusalem Forest, where one of the minors got angry at Ben-David as they were doing most of the work. As a result, the adult took a crowbar and pounded Abu Khdeir while shouting, "this is for the Fogel family" and "this is for Shalhevet Pas" until blood ran down from his head. (Ehud and Ruth Fogel and three of their children were murdered in their beds by two Palestinian teens on March 11, 2011; Shalhevet Pass was a 10-month-old infant murdered by a Palestiniann sniper in Hebron on March 26, 2001.) He also kicked the boy several times while shouting 'this is for Gilad, Naphtali and Eyal'. They then set fire to Abu Khdeir while he was unconscious and fled the scene.
They destroyed the evidence in Sacher Park in Jerusalem, and then went to Ben David's in the West Bank settlement of Adam, played guitar and went to sleep.
Ben-David retained his right to keep silent during the trial. His attorney, Asher Ohayon, submitted a medical opinion stating that his client is unfit to stand trial, contrary to the opinion of the district psychiatrist. Attorney Zion Amir, who represents the minor accused of strangling Abu Khdeir and who was also involved in the kidnapping attempt of Musa Zalum, spoke of the relationship of dependence between the minor and Ben-David, who was a father figure to him, and could therefore not resist him. He also claimed that they only intended to kidnap Abu Khdeir but not kill him. The other minor, who sat in the vehicle at the time of the murder, but was involved in the kidnapping and the drive during which Abu Khdeir was held, argued during the trial that he was drawn into it by his friends.