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Alleged underworld figure Francois Abutbul was sentenced to life in prison by the Tel Aviv District Court yesterday for the 2004 murder of 18-year-old Ra'anan Levy outside a nightclub at Kibbutz Shefayim, south of Netanya.

Abutbul's cousin Avi Abutbul was acquitted of murder for lack of sufficient evidence, but was convicted of conspiracy to commit a crime and attempted infliction of serious bodily harm.

The Abutbuls' friend, Shai Makhlouf, who was with the other defendants at the time of Levy's death, had been charged with conspiracy but was acquitted for lack of evidence.

According to the indictment in the case, on the night of the incident a fight broke out outside the nightclub between Avi Abutbul's brother Amir and a group of young people from Rishon Letzion. Amir allegedly called Avi Abutbul, who reportedly came with Francois, Shai Makhlouf and another friend. They allegedly joined in the altercation and then chased the group in a jeep. Levy, according to his family, was in the vicinity by chance. According to the indictment, Francois Abutbul got out of the Jeep and stabbed Levy to death.

Francois and Avi Abutbul had denied in court any involvement in the stabbing, but Avi's former girlfriend, Reut Rubin, testified that Avi had told her that it was Francois who stabbed Levy.

Francois Abutbul's lawyers objected to convicting their client on hearsay evidence, but the three-judge panel said the evidence supported the conviction because Levy was stabbed at the location and time at which the jeep was stopped and Francois got out of it, and since Levy was standing next to Francois Abutbul, the proper conclusion was that he stabbed Levy.

As a result of the location of the wound, they ruled Abutbul had intended to cause Levy's death.

Francois Abutbul's lawyers said they intend to appeal the decision.