State Appeals 'Leniency' of Arab-Jewish School Arsonists’ Sentence

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Jerusalem's Max Rayne Hand in Hand bilingual school on November 30, 2014, a day after the arson attack.Credit: Emil Salman

The prosecution on Wednesday appealed the leniency of the sentence handed down to two Jewish brothers who torched a bilingual kindergarten in Jerusalem last year.

Shlomo and Nahman Twito were convicted under a plea bargain of torching the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in November 2014. The plea bargain included no guidelines regarding the sentence, but the Jerusalem District Court decided to sentence them to 24 and 30 months in prison, respectively.

In the appeal he filed Wednesday, prosecutor Aryeh Peter argued that these sentences do not fit the severity of the crime or of the circumstances in which it was committed. It also will not constitute a sufficient deterrent to others, he wrote.

“This case reveals an especially grave mass of severe and significant injuries to the fundamental values of society,” the appeal said, adding that the personal circumstances of the perpetrators are not sufficient grounds for leniency. This is especially true, Peter argued, because the brothers intended “to create ‘media shock waves’ by dint of the ‘symbol’ chosen as the target for their malicious plot.”

Moreover, the appeal said, the sentence does not match the gravity of the court’s own conclusions in its verdict.

The court, Peter wrote, “did not give sufficient thought to the special dangers that flow from the commission of violent crimes for ideological reasons, including the concrete fear of copycat crimes (by other ideological criminals who identify with the perpetrator’s ‘message’) and of retaliatory crimes (by ideological criminals from the other side), which lead to a slippery slope whose end is a huge conflagration.”

The appeal did not specify what sentence the prosecution thinks would be appropriate. But it did take issue with the district court’s statement that the minimal sentence for arson of this type would be 10 months in jail. In fact, Peter wrote, the minimal punishment stipulated in many other verdicts is at least two years – and that is without even considering the particularly severe circumstances of this case.

Asked for his reaction to the appeal, the Twitos’ attorney, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said, “If this had been an arson attack on a synagogue, the prosecution would presumably not have appealed the decision. In any case, the appeal is strange. This was a harsh and severe punishment – a lengthy jail term for young men with no criminal record. It’s regrettable that pressure from the school’s activists overcame [State Prosecutor] Shai Nitzan and his colleagues, who are discriminating between one verdict and another.”

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