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Attorneys for Julian Soufir, who confessed to having murdered taxi driver Taysir Karaki on Monday "because he was an Arab," argued yesterday that their client was psychologically disturbed and therefore unfit to stand trial.

The Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court, which remanded Soufir for 10 days yesterday, agreed to send him for psychiatric evaluation.

"This is someone who, to the best of our understanding, is incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, invents things and talks about spirits and demons running his life," Soufir's attorneys, Yehuda Fried and Tal Gabay, told the court.

At the hearing, it emerged that about a month ago, the police were called to Soufir's apartment after his wife claimed that he assaulted her. The subsequent investigation indicated that he might be suffering from psychological problems and he was sent for psychiatric evaluation then.

Regarding his murder confession, a police representative told the court: "Our impression is that the suspect knew what this was all about. He reenacted the incident, and his memory was good. He was also able to explain his deed."

According to Superintendent Nissim Bracha, who is leading the investigation, the police are not sure when Soufir decided to kill an Arab, "but what is certain is that on the morning of the murder, he already knew that this is what he wanted to do."

The probe revealed that Soufir, who immigrated from France about 18 months ago, spent the night before the murder at a Jerusalem yeshiva. The next morning, a friend took him to Jerusalem's central bus station so he could return to Tel Aviv, where he lived. There, Bracha said, he sought an Arab taxi driver.

Murder weapon

"He said that he initially stopped one taxi driver, but when he discovered that he was a Jew, he left and waited for another taxi," Bracha said.

This happened twice more, and then Soufir hailed Karaki's taxi. He asked to be taken to his Tel Aviv apartment via Netanya, where his brother lived, and he picked up the murder weapon, a large knife, during the stop at his brother's flat.

In Tel Aviv, Soufir invited Karaki up to his apartment for coffee, and Karaki agreed. Once inside the flat, Soufir attacked him and slit his throat. He then drove Karaki's taxi to Netanya, picked up his brother, Jonathan - who, he said, knew nothing about the murder - and took him back to Tel Aviv. En route, he confessed to the killing, and Jonathan told him he should turn himself in to the police.

Julian took Jonathan to his apartment to show him the scene, and on the way out, they were stopped by a policeman for a random security check - whereupon Julian confessed. Jonathan was remanded for two days yesterday while police try to determine whether he indeed knew nothing.