The Haifa District Court sentenced four Nahariya policemen to one-year jail terms yesterday for having planted bombs in the house and car of the reputed head of an organized crime ring who had threatened them and their families.
The policemen - Yaniv Ashur, Yossi Levy, Eldad Hadad and Rami Moussa - said they intended to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
The four planted the bombs two years ago in retaliation for a series of grenade attacks on their homes and the homes of various Nahariya notables. Michael Mor, who police say heads an organized crime ring in the city, was thought to be behind the attacks.
The jail sentence contravened the recommendations of psychologists and social workers who evaluated the policemen and advised a sentence with a "rehabilitative, educational cast, in the form of service for the benefit of the public." Specifically, they had recommended 500 hours of community service for Ashur and Moussa and 300 hours for Hadad; Levy's recommendation included no specific number.
However, not only did all three judges reject this suggestion, but the lone dissenting judge wanted a longer sentence, of three years rather than one - a fact that caused the prosecution to say it might appeal the verdict as well.
"On one side of the scales are exceptionally grave criminal acts by those who enjoyed the public's trust as being responsible for the rule of law," wrote Judge Yosef Elron, the head of the panel and the lone dissenter, in his decision. "On the other is the exceptional background to their acts, including the state of the rule of law in Nahariya at the time of their acts - [a state] that has already been defined as scandalous - and the Israel Police's response, or rather, lack of response, to this situation, [a response] which cannot be defined as anything but a failure."
Nevertheless, Elron concluded, "there is one law for everyone, both the criminal and the policeman."
"The law book is the same law book for everybody, for anyone who commits a crime and is convicted of it is a criminal in every respect," he said.
Though the policemen had expected a jail sentence, they and their families expressed disappointment with the verdict.
"There is no law in a country where the criminal Michael Mor sits on the beach and enjoys himself while my son and his comrades must sit behind bars," said Ashur's father, Jean-Claude.
Mor is currently imprisoned, having pleaded guilty to threatening police officers and judges. But due to a controversial plea bargain approved by the Nazareth Magistrate's Court last month, under which he was sentenced to 11 months in jail but allowed to serve them concurrently with an earlier sentence, he is due to be released in another three months at most.
Ashur's attorney, Avital Ben-Nun, blasted the prosecution for being willing to reach a plea bargain with Mor but not with the policemen.
"It's ridiculous and inconceivable that the same prosecution that refused to use its discretion in our case signed [a deal] with Mor," she said. "It's no big deal to enforce the law against normative individuals; the trick is to do it against criminals."
Prosecutor Moshe Saada said the court sent an important message.
"A policeman in Israel acts within the framework of the law; he is not above the law," said Saada. "A policeman is a policeman, not a judge or an executioner."