A Haifa resident convicted of arson and threats against Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.
Benny Lugasi, 37, was also ordered to pay the complainant in the case NIS 7,000 in compensation.
Lugasi was convicted of threatening residents of his mother's Haifa apartment building on three separate occasions last year and was found guilty on two counts of arson.
In one incident, he put a table, chairs and boards in the building’s entryway, set them on fire, and tried to prevent the residents from putting it out, while threatening, “I’ll bring a knife and finish you off ... You Sudanese, I’ll burn you, I’ll show you what’s what.”
Another time, he threatened, “You Ethiopians, I’ll set you on fire.” In the third incident, he torched the wheel of one resident’s car, along with a nearby trash can, and threatened, “I’ll burn all the Ethiopians in the building.”
In her verdict, Judge Diana Sela said Lugasi’s motive appeared to be “pure hatred and racism, something that must be completely uprooted.” This is especially important in Israel, “which is supposed to provide a home for all Jews, whoever they are,” she added.
Consequently, Sela wrote, it was necessary to impose a sentence that would “deter both the defendant and others.”
She also noted that Lugasi’s acts of arson endangered residents of the building, and perhaps of neighboring buildings as well, along with damaging both the residents’ property and public property.
The fact that Lugasi was drunk when he committed the arson attacks in no way mitigates the severity of his crimes, Sela wrote. But she urged the Israel Prison Service to consider putting him in a rehab program for alcoholics.