Man Who Killed Left-winger at '83 Protest Released

No one but reporters and photographers awaited Yona Avrushmi outside Hadarim Prison.

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

The convicted murderer of an Israeli peace activist was released from prison yesterday after serving 27 years. Yona Avrushmi, who threw the grenade at a Peace Now demonstration that killed Emil Grunzweig, left prison wearing a large skullcap and carrying a small backpack.

Yona Avrushmi, convicted in the death of Emil Grunzweig, leaving prison after serving a 27-year sentence, Jan. 26, 2011.Credit: Alon Ron

He tried to avoid the many journalists waiting for him when he came out of Hadarim Prison, pushing photographers aside. He ran around the parking lot for 10 minutes to see if a relative or friend had come to pick him up.

When Avrushmi realized no one had come to get him, he stood in the pouring rain, refusing to speak to reporters. Bus drivers passing by stopped to pick him up but he declined. It took several minutes for him to hail a cab and leave.

On February 10, 1983, a left-wing rally in Jerusalem called for the implementation of the Kahan Commission report; that panel investigated the massacre in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps during the first Lebanon war. Avrushmi threw a live grenade into the crowd, killing Grunzweig and wounding nine others.

Avrushmi was convicted of murder and received a life sentence, and his petition to the High Court of Justice was rejected. In 1995, President Ezer Weizman commuted his sentence to 27 years.

After Avrushmi had served two-thirds of his sentence, he submitted an appeal for early release but was turned down. Retired Supreme Court Justice Miriam Ben-Porat, who heard the petition, later wrote in Haaretz that the crime was "an extreme example of the blind hatred that can accompany disputes between political movements, strong enough to serve as a motive for murder of a person whom the murderer does not even know, only because that person stood among the members of the movement [the murderer] hates."

In 2002, Avrushmi's sentence was further reduced by a third; the prosecution appealed this, but lost. However, after the drug Ecstasy was discovered in Avrushmi's urine on his return from a furlough, the High Court left the decision to the Prison Service. The service revoked the reduction and ruled that Avrushmi would serve his entire 27-year sentence.

Over the years, Avrushmi was awarded long furloughs and worked as a welder in a workshop near the prison. He also worked in the Elite candy factory, which employs prisoners undergoing rehabilitation.

About six months ago, while driving with other prisoners to work at Elite, Avrushmi said a prison guard called him a murderer. Avrushmi tried to attack the guard, after which his furloughs were curtailed.

Eliezer Grunzweig, the victim's brother, said yesterday: "I hope Avrushmi will deal with his rehabilitation and not with incitement. I hope this event will cause politicians to make another reckoning before they embark on incitement campaigns. I want to thank the prosecution for its determined war, for not giving in to Yona Avrushmi for even one day less than the punishment he was given."

According to Avrushmi's attorney, Avi Aviram, "Avrushmi served his entire sentence, and I hope he will now get his life back together. He has expressed full remorse for his deeds."

Avrushmi is divorced and has one daughter, with whom he maintains infrequent contact.

Avrushmi plans to live in the Hatikva neighborhood of south Tel Aviv, where he has rented an apartment. He intends to work as a welder.

He has said in the past that he regretted the murder, which he said he committed because of incitement.

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