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The Haifa District Court yesterday convicted four Nahariya policemen of illegal use of weapons, fraud, breach of trust and causing damage with explosives. The four - constables Yossi Levi, Eldad Hadad, Rami Mousa and superintended Yaniv Ashur - as well as police volunteer Ran Kroter were found guilty of planting explosive devices in the car of suspected mobster Michael Mor and in the house of his relatives.

The indictment states that in October 2006, the policemen decided on an action to retaliate for a grenade allegedly thrown by Mor's criminal group at the house of a detective from their station. The policemen planted two bombs, one under Mor's car and one on the windowsill of his nephew, Roni Ben Shalom. Another constable, Menachem Ochana, was also involved in the act and later turned state's witness.

The judges said the policemen "acted in a manner that directly and deliberately contradicted their duty as police officers entrusted with enforcing the orders of the law. They put lives at risk instead of guarding them, they corrupted property instead of safeguarding it, and they committed offenses they were supposed to be preventing."

The judges also described what they called the dire state of law enforcement in Nahariya, saying the city's force suffered from a "systemic failure." They noted that in the six years preceding the events described in the indictment, dozens of violent crimes were committed in Nahariya, including attempted and actual attacks on policemen, their families, the mayor and prosecution witnesses.

"This is an unprecedented and scandalous reality in 21st century Israel, in a state of law committed to the personal safety of its citizens. Furthermore, although the prosecution apparently shares the accused's belief that Mor was behind many of those actions, none of his men have faced trial to date," the judges wrote. They noted, however, that although these circumstances "contributed to the offenses of the accused," they constituted insufficient grounds for dropping the charges altogether.

Family members of the policemen said they would appeal the verdict. "The good guys will win in the end," said Ashur's father. "We are not surprised by the verdict," said Ashur's lawyer, Avital Ben Nun. "It would have taken a very bold move by the judges and we weren't expecting that."