A man from Kafr Kana was indicted yesterday in the Nazareth District Court for the kidnapping and murder of Israel Defense Forces Corporal Oleg Shaichat in July 2003.
Mohammed Anabtawi, 20, was arrested on April 19 of this year, and immediately confessed to and reenacted the murder of the soldier. In the wake of his confession, three other Kafr Kana residents who had been accused of the murder were released. Anabtawi, however, has since retracted the confession, saying it was extracted under duress, and has named the murderer as Mohammed Khatib, another resident of the northern village.
Yesterday, for the first time, Anabtawi told the court that Khatib had told him that four Palestinians had been involved in the murder. "If there is justice in this country, I will go home," Anabtawi said. "The confession was extracted from me under duress. They threatened me with deporting my family to Syria or Jordan."
Mohammed Khatib was killed in a shootout at the Beit Rimon junction in April 2004, after opening fire at a Border Police patrol vehicle. Khatib's partner in the attack, Alah Moussa, 21, of Kafr Manda in the Western Galilee, was wounded in his leg, and subsequently arrested.
The rifle used by the two in the attack on the Border Police patrol vehicle belonged to Shaichat, and its discovery was the breakthrough in the murder investigation.
According to the indictment, Anabtawi and his accessory to the murder, Khatib, were members of the Free Galilee terror organization, which aspired to carry out operations against the state in response to what it defined as "the killing of the West Bank residents and Israel's actions in the territories."
On July 21, 2003, the indictment says, Anabtawi and Khatib decided to kidnap an IDF soldier for the purpose of killing him and stealing his weapon. After purchasing a length of cable with which to carry out the murder, the two are then alleged to have traveled to the Golani Junction, where they spotted an armed solder. Anabtawi, the charge sheet says, hesitated and continued driving. After Khatib berated him for being a coward, the two backtracked toward the Beit Rimon Junction, where they saw Shaichat hitchhiking. Khatib, the indictment notes, then moved to sit in the back seat of the car.
Shaichat got into the front seat of the car, alongside Anabtawi. At some stage in the journey, the indictment says, Anabtawi turned onto a side road; and when Shaichat asked why he had done so, Khatib replied that they had to pick up a friend. Shortly thereafter, Khatib wrapped the cable around Shaichat's neck and strangled him.
Anabtawi, the charge sheet reads, then pulled over to the side of the road and proceeded to beat to soldier, and then took his weapon. Khatib continued to strangle Shaichat and when the soldier stopped moving, the two put him in the trunk of the car and drove off. A short while later, Anabtawi stopped the car again and Khatib took Shaichat's weapon and shot the soldier in the head.
The two then returned to Kafr Kana, purchased digging implements and buried Shaichat in a pit. They also bought gasoline and burned the soldier's belongings.
Anabtawi and Khatib hid Shaichat's rifle till last April, when Khatib used it in the shooting at at the Beit Rimon Junction. "Anabtawi is innocent - as pure and white as a dove," his lawyer, Rafi Masalha, told the court yesterday.
The indictment was filed yesterday by attorneys Mirit Stern and Yael Kochavi of the State Prosecution's northern district. "This case has been discussed enough in the media; we will say what we have to say in court," Stern said, adding that yesterday was the first time she had heard Anabtawi's story regarding the involvement of four Palestinians in the murder.
Anabtawi was also indicted for a number of acts committed by the Free Galilee organization. He and four other young men, including two minors, from Kafr Kana and Kafr Manda were indicted last month for establishing an illegal organization, shooting attacks, throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and attempting to kidnap IDF soldiers.
How the Shaichat case unfolded
July 21, 2003 - Corporal Oleg Shaichat is kidnapped at the Beit Rimon Junction while on his way home to Upper Nazareth.
July 28, 2003 - Shaichat's body is found in an olive grove outside Kafr Kana.
August 3, 2003 - Tarek Nujeidat and Yussuf Sabiah are arrested on suspicion of the murder.
August 5, 2003 - Nujeidat confesses, and the information he provides leads to the arrest of Sharif Id.
August 6, 2003 - Nujeidat reconstructs the crime.
August 11, 2003 - Id is released due to lack of evidence against him.
August 20, 2003 - Nujeidat retracts his confession.
September 16, 2003 - Id is arrested again following a decision to file indictments.
September 30, 2003 - The state files charges against the three men.
December 17, 2003 - The Nazareth District Court orders the three held in remand until the completion of the legal proceedings against them.
February 11, 2004 - The Supreme Court rejects an appeal filed by Sabiah and Id against their remand.
April 18, 2004 - Mohammed Khatib is killed in a shootout with a Border Police patrol near the Beit Rimon Junction. His accomplice in the attack, Alah Mussa, is injured. The two are found in possession of Shaichat's rifle.
April 19, 2004 - Mohammed Anabtawi is arrested in Kafr Kana. A gag order is imposed on the case.
May 10, 2004 - Nujeidat, Id and Sabiah are released from detention and placed under house arrest.
May 11, 2004 - The gag order is lifted. The police publish the names of the Shaichat murder suspects and the existence of the Free Galilee terror cell.
June 7, 2004 - Indictments are filed against the members of the Free Galilee organization.
July 8, 2004 - The indictments against Nujeidat, Sabiah and Id are dropped.
August 12, 2004 - Anabtawi is indicted for the murder of Shaichat. He denies the charges against him.
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