Three Israeli Arabs, residents of Kafr Kana in lower Galilee, are to be charged today in Nazareth District Court for the kidnapping and murder of Corporal Oleg Shaichat, who went missing on July 22.
The three were arrested in early August, but a gag order imposed on the investigation prevented any information about the case being reported. The gag was lifted yesterday, ahead of the indictments.
The three men, Tarek Nujeidat, Yussuf Sabih and Sharif Eid, are all known to the police, who suspect they kidnapped the soldier and murdered him to steal his M-16, which has still not been recovered. That leads police to believe the three sold the weapon. The theft of the weapon, say police, indicates the crime had "nationalist" motives, though they say that it might have been motivated by the desire for revenge for the shooting death of a friend of theirs, a drug dealer who was shot by police when he appeared to be trying to run down a policeman last year.
And while the indictments for kidnapping, murder and conspiracy will be handed down today, police sources admit that after more than a month of intensive interrogations of the three men, all they have as evidence linking the three to the case is a confession by Nujeidat - while the other two claim they had nothing to do with it - and some physical evidence from the scene.
Nujeidat has reconstructed the events for the police, on videotape, but his various accounts during the past month of questioning included incriminations of people who were proven to be innocent based on alibis, and Nujeidat says that one of the other two men actually pulled the trigger.
According to Nujeidat, the three were in a car on their way to Haifa on the day of the kidnapping, when they spotted the soldier at the Beit Rimon junction. They offered him a ride, and when he hesitated they allegedly used force to get him in the car, driving into an olive grove between the villages of Mashad and Kafr Kana, not far from Nazareth. While he was being led to his death, Shaichat managed to drop his beret, which once found, after a week of searching, quickly led to the discovery of his body by a retired army Bedouin scout who volunteered for the search.
Among the items found during the search and which were kept under wraps by the gag order were Shaichat's glasses, one of his shoes, his cellular phone and some military items, apparently parts of his rifle.
The search drew hundreds of volunteers, both Jewish and Arab, from throughout Galilee. The discovery of the items near Kafr Kana and Mashad kept police and Shin Bet investigators focused on that area, and some specific items found near the body, led to the village and the suspects.
Nujeidat and Sabih were arrested on August 3, and have been in police custody ever since. Sharif Eid was arrested the next day, released after a week and then rearrested on August 4.