"A judge was murdered in Israel" are the opening words of the verdict against Yitzhak Zuziashvilli and Rafi Nahmani, who were convicted yesterday in the murder of Judge Adi Azar in the driveway of his Ramat Hasharon home in July 2004. The pair was sentenced to life plus five years to be served consecutively following the life sentences they are already serving for previous murders.
"We feel like we were watching a thriller," the judges wrote in the verdict, "a particularly shocking drama that ends with the murder of a senior judge. But unlike a screenplay, the lights didn't come on and the curtain didn't fall, but we are left with a life cut down in its prime, with a shocked and grieving public and with a gaping hole in the legal world."
Zuziashvilli and Nahmani said they would appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.
The verdict finds that the pair plotted from behind bars. Nahmani was involved for money, but Zuziashvilli hoped to plan the murder of a senior public figure and then offer the authorities assistance in solving the crime. He thought this would win him a retrial and acquittal in the murder for which he was already serving a life sentence.
The murder of Judge Azar was committed by Nahmani, who had escaped during a prison furlough, and by prosecution witness Avinoam Hajbi. Zuziashvilli contacted the state prosecution through his then-attorney, David Weiner, offering to lead the authorities to the murder weapon. However, at this point the prosecution already suspected that Weiner's dispatcher was involved in the crime. Later, realizing he had served Zuziashvilli's plot and was suspected of complicity, Weiner took his own life.
Zuziashvilli, who invoked his right to remain silent during the trial itself, sought to offer his version during yesterday's sentencing arguments, but the judges didn't allow it. "I was framed, that is known," Zuziashvilli said.
Nahmani added, "I am innocent and this is all an act for the media.