In a retrial of an 1983 murder, Tel Aviv District Court yesterday found the five men accused of killing 14-year-old Danny Katz guilty. Haifa District Court in 1985 originally convicted the five - Samir Janama, Fathi Janama, Ali Janim, Ahmed Kuzli and Ataf Sabihi - of murder, kidnapping and plotting to commit a crime. Supreme Court President Justice Aharon Barak ordered a retrial in 1999 because he felt a number of allegations defendants made against investigators needed to be clarified.
The Tel Aviv Court also agreed to remand three of the defendants, Samir and Fathi Janama and Janim, in custody until the end of court proceedings against them. Kuzli and Sabihi are already serving time for the 1982 murder of soldier Dafna Carmon. Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner freed the three on bail in April 1999 after Barak ordered the retrial.
Yesterday's verdict concluded the second of this two-part retrial. Judges Dvora Berliner, Judith Stoffman, and Zeev Hammer, in the first part of the trial in November 2000, rejected the defendants' claims that they had been unjustly pressured to confess and reenact the abduction and murder of Katz. Convictions in the original trial were based on the confessions and reconstructions of the defendants.
They wrote that "the interrogation of the defendants had not included `brutal and inhumane measures' violating accepted basic values." The judges stressed they were not saying the interrogations had been "sterile," but that the five defendants' "dramatic claims" of police abuse were "not truthful."
In yesterday's ruling, the same panel of three judges wrote that their impression of the defendants was no different than they had concluded after the first part of the trial. "We have heard much talk, many challenges have been made over the procedures, but the defendants did not have a clear, coherent version [of events] that they themselves could stand behind, even on the matter of each of their's alibis."
The judges said they had watched the tapes of the reenactments more than once and "the defendants know what they are talking about, and we believe that the reenactments hold great weight. The judges found support for the defendants' confessions in the fact that three of them offered to turn state's witnesses in the case."
The verdict continued to say that "the judges found the holding and questioning conditions were by no means such as to cause the defendants to confess to deeds they did not do ... There is no question of any one of the suspects losing their ability to tell the truth. The fact that the defendants recanted their confessions from time to time proves they understood what they had said, what the meaning was, and what the implications were."
The court also found there was a nationalist motive behind the murder, "not on the level of belonging to a hostile organization, or of pre-defined activities placed on them by someone, but as a motive hovering in the background." Sentencing will be handed down at a later date.
According to the original indictment against the five, the suspects met a few days before the December 8, 1983 murder and decided to kidnap and kill a Jewish child. Katz left his home in Haifa's Denya neighborhood to visit a friend who lived nearby.
Samir Janama, who was driving by, stopped his truck and forced Katz to get in. He then drove to a nearby building site where the defendants are said to have gagged and beaten him with chains until he was unconscious. They then undressed him, strangled him, and sexually abused him.
The boy's body was then wrapped in a blanket, placed in the vehicle's trunk and then dumped in bushes near Haifa University. Three of the defendants returned the next day to hide the body in a cave near their home town of Sakhnin, where it was discovered three days later.
Katz's mother, Mira, reacted to the verdict by saying "I don't have any words, only tears." She was too moved to speak. Her son Yoav, who was 19 when his brother was murdered, speaking for the family said: "We welcome the court's verdict."
Ali Janim said after the ruling: "There's no justice. There was only justice with Aharon Barak. If I have any connection to the murder, I ask that I be hung."
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