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Court Reinstates Plea Deal With Suspect in 1999 Murder of Child

In August 2002 Yihye Turk was charged with the April 1999 murder of Aviv Iluz and the attempted murder of the child's father, Asher Iluz.

The High Court of Justice yesterday reinstated a plea bargain reached with a man accused of murdering a 3-year-old. The plea bargain had been withdrawn by State Prosecutor Moshe Lador.

In August 2002 Yihye Turk was charged with the April 1999 murder of Aviv Iluz and the attempted murder of the child's father, Asher Iluz. In the course of lengthy interrogation Turk had admitted to helping make the bomb that was placed in the latter's car, and named two additional perpetrators. But when the indictment was issued, Turk denied the facts as laid out in the charge sheet.

Following protracted legal battles that went all the way to the Supreme Court, an October 2010 plea bargain stated Turk would serve 15 years in prison in exchange for admitting guilt. The agreement with the prosecution specified that the deal could be dropped by the state if Turk did not admit his guilt.

The defense and the prosecution informed the Tel Aviv District Court that a plea bargain had been reached and requested a court date for its approval, in Turk's presence. Nine days later the State Prosecutor's Office announced that Lador was asking for a review of the arrangement.

In December, after the end of the prosecutors' strike, Lador's office announced that after a reexamination the state prosecutor had decided not to submit the plea bargain to the court.

Turk and the Public Defender's Office filed a petition in the High Court arguing that Lador's decision to cancel the plea bargain violated Turk's constitutional right to due process and his expectations from the arrangement, and also damaged the public interest in the institution of plea bargains and public trust in the state prosecution.

'Reneging can damage credibility'

In explaining the High Court's decision, Justice Miriam Naor wrote that the state prosecutor should use the authority to withdraw plea bargains only in cases where the potential damage to the public resulting from honoring the agreement outweighs the public interest in maintaining the public's trust in the government.

"Reneging on the agreement can damage the credibility of plea bargains. In general, it is better for 'problematic' cases be brought to the attention of the state prosecutor prior to the signing of the agreement," Naor wrote.

Iluz's attorney, Rinat Friedman, said in a response that it was inconceivable that the prosecution did not take the stance of the victim's family into consideration, especially in the case of such a tragic incident.