Two Suspects Confess to Arson at Jerusalem Jewish-Arab School

In plea bargain over November attack, Twito brothers face maximum 15 years in prison.

Emil Salman

Two of the suspects in the arson attack on a bilingual Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem last November have admitted, as part of a plea agreement last month, that they carried out the attack.

In admitting to arson at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand school, brothers Nahman and Shlomo Twito face up to 15 years in prison. They also admitted defacing property and incitement to violence.

The prosecution in turn reduced the indictment against the pair, dropping charges of breaking and entering and incitement to racism – over comments they posted on Facebook prior to the attack.

No agreement was reached on punishment in the case, which will be handed down in June. The brothers’ public defender said they will be sent for evaluation by the probation department prior to sentencing.

A third defendant, Yitzhak Gabai, decided not to agree to a plea arrangement and is pursuing his case to trial, while challenging the admissibility of a confession he gave Shin Bet security service investigators in the case.

In another case Thursday, four Jewish teenagers were sentenced to three months of community service in Jerusalem District Court as part of a plea arrangement on charges related to arson at a Palestinian coffee house. The defendants admitted to committing the arson attack in the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron. They had initially been accused of committing the crime out of racist motives, but the racism allegations were dropped in the plea agreement in exchange for their confessions. The prosecution acknowledged that new evidence raised doubt about racism as a motive. As part of the plea bargain, the prosecution agreed to have the accused sentenced to community service, but sought six months of community service instead of the three months that the court imposed.

The Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office issued a statement on the sentencing in the case, noting it was agreed to sentence the defendants to community service because the defendants were minors, due to the property involved, the damage caused and other circumstances in the case.

The prosector’s statement added: “The prosecution initially submitted an indictment accusing the defendants of arson committed with racist motives and also asked that the defendants be detained until the end of legal proceedings. After the filing of the indictment, the prosecution received information that raised doubts about the motive for the offenses. The prosecution therefore agreed to amend the indictment. The racist motive was deleted in exchange for the admission to their actions, and it was noted that the arson was carried out in revenge for a prior arson at a place where the accused were accustomed to spending time.”