A 21-year-old woman from northern Israel was sentenced to 14 years in prison yesterday for abetting the 2003 murders of an American-Israeli teenager and a Czech tourist. The sentence handed down by Nazareth District Court, which also included two and a half years probation, was the maximum penalty sought by the prosecution.
The prosecution's initial indictment charged Y. with the murder of 18-year-old Dana Bennett and the attempted murder of the tourist, 27-year-old Sylvia Molrova, a month before Bennett's disappearance. Ultimately, prosecutors reached a plea agreement with the woman, identified only as Y., to ensure that she testified against the main suspect in the murders, her ex-husband Adwan Farhan.
Bennett's mother Vicky said after the sentencing that she considers the woman a murderer.
"She should have received a life sentence. I realize that given the circumstances there was a need for a plea agreement, and at least she received the maximum the prosecution had wanted, but let's not forget that she could have prevented Dana's murder had she just picked up the phone and called the police after the Czech tourist was murdered," she said.
"Fourteen years isn't enough. She will still get out of prison and return to normal life, her whole life is before her - she will still marry and have children," Bennett's mother said.
Dana Bennett was born in Chicago in 1985. At age 5 her parents divorced and she moved with her Israeli mother to Tiberias. Later she lived with her father in Los Angeles before attending high school on Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi.
Tomorrow Y. will testify in Farhan's trial as a prosecution witness.
"I know it will be a difficult day for me, to hear what happened on the day of the murder," Vicky Bennett said. "I hope he gets three life sentences."
Y.'s attorney, Issam Tannous, said he may appeal the sentence. "We expected a lighter sentence, but I understand that the court had to make a ruling that wasn't easy," he said.
"My client is in an emotional whirlwind with this man," he added, referring to Farhan, "and we all know what he is capable of. Her nervousness is understandable."
Last week the court heard testimony from two former cell mates of Farhan at Tiberias police station. Farhan is suspected of killing Aharon Simahov while both were detained at the station.
One of the former cell mates, Suleiman Farid, said he was told by police investigators six years ago that Farhan had murdered Simahov. Farid had originally been suspected of the murder after being incriminated by Farhan.
Simahov, 25, of Tiberias, was found hanging in his jail cell in March 2004, less than 24 hours after he had been detained. Rushed to hospital in critical condition, he died two and a half months later.
"I passed through the seven gates of hell because of the charges against me," Farid said in court.
Charges against Farhan for Simahov's murder only came after he emerged as the prime suspect in the Bennett and Molrova cases. Police had previously said that Simahov had taken his own life.
Jan Belkin - another cell mate of both Farid and Farhan in the days before Simahov's murder - described Farhan to the court as a violent, dangerous man.
While detained on suspicion of using a stolen credit card, Belkin said, he was "advised" by Farhan to hang himself. Farid even volunteered to help him, suggesting to Belkin that he pretend to attempt suicide and thereby earn his release from prison for psychiatric treatment.
Farid, a 17-year veteran officer of the South Lebanese Army, entered Israel with the Israel Defense Forces' withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000. He later spent six and a half years in prison for drug violations and assaulting a police officer.
Of Farhan, he said, "I'm traumatized - I still can't say his name."
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