Trial Over Death of Palestinian Teen: Prosecutor Seeks to Poke Holes in Minor's Testimony

Prosecutor asserts that Y., a minor, was a party to the premeditated planning of the Palestinian teen's kidnap and murder last July.

Emil Salman

At the trial in Jerusalem District Court on Monday of the three defendants accused of the kidnapping and murder of East Jerusalem resident Mohammed Abu-Khdeir last summer, prosecutor Uri Corb challenged claims by one of the two juvenile defendants.

The teenager, identified publicly only as Y., said he had been encouraged to take part in committing the crimes by adult defendant Yosef Haim Ben-David, but hadn’t intended to kill their captive.

The murder on July 2, 2014 of Abu-Khdeir, a 16-year-old resident of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shoafat, was apparently an act of revenge for the kidnapping and killing of three yeshiva students in the West Bank, who had been buried the day before.

During the cross-examination, Corb displayed the statement Y. had given to the police and the video of his reenactment of events leading up to and including the crimes, and he challenged the teen’s assertion that he was not aware of the fatal implications of his acts. Y., the attorney insisted, was a party to the premeditated planning of Abu-Khdeir’s murder.

In the video Corb showed, the defendant is heard saying: “We were looking for someone who would be a boy, not just anyone and also not someone who would be a shahid [an Arabic term for a martyr] or a terrorist ... Not a 70-year-old man, not a woman and also not a small child.”

Corb told the court that this evidence contradicted Y.’s testimony last week, in which the defendant said it never occurred to him they would kill anyone.

Earlier in the trial Monday, a video clip from Ben-David’s reenactment of the crimes was shown in an effort to challenge Y.’s claim that he was unaware of the significance of his actions, and to shed some light on the role of the older defendant, who is refusing to testify. Ben-David’s lawyer says his client is unfit to stand trial and was not responsible for his own actions, although that has not yet been proven on the grounds of medical evidence.

Corb asked Y. to demonstrate in the courtroom how he allegedly strangled Abu-Khdeir in a car on the way from Shoafat to the Jerusalem Forest, where the Palestinian’s burned body was later found. Y. said he couldn’t remember what happened, and denied comments made by Ben-David in his reenactment in which the older man said he saw Y. “trying to finish [Abu-Khdeir] off with punches to ribs and the sternum.”

In his video, Ben-David is seen with detectives in the car in which Abu-Khdeir was apparently placed after being kidnapped. In contrast to Ben-David’s demeanor in the courtroom, where he has been sitting staring into space, on the video he is seen describing the chain of events in great detail.

Ben-David is asked in the video if he participated in the struggle with Abu-Khdeir in an effort to keep him in the car, but Ben-David replied: “I couldn’t help. I was concentrating on driving. I understood that my heart was beating. I was just waiting for the door to be shut. At that moment, we knew it was the point of no return, that something was happening here that I hadn’t dreamed of.”

He also said in the reenactment that he heard one of the minors shouting that he was choking "him" – an apparent reference to Abu-Khdeir. “I told him, finish him off, so he doesn’t come after us. He has seven souls. I’m in a movie in which Arabs are after you,” Ben-David added.

The latter is seen recounting to the investigators how fast he was driving at various points along the way to the forest with their captive. “This whole time, Y. is strangling him like this,” he says on the video. When the police ask him to demonstrate exactly how the Palestinian was being strangled, Ben-David replies: “I don’t want to demonstrate it on a Jew.”

In the reenactment, Ben-David is also heard instructing the other defendants to “finish off” Abu-Khdeir.