Crime Boss Assi Abutbul Sentenced to 13 Years

The head of the Abutbul crime syndicate, Assi Abutbul, was sentenced yesterday in Tel Aviv District Court to 13 years in prison and two years' probation, as well as being fined NIS 500,000. Abutbul was convicted earlier this month of being the head of a criminal organization, in the first major conviction under the Organized Crime Law, passed in 2002. He was also found guilty of extortion, arson, unlawful imprisonment and financial crimes.

Four other members of the Abutbul organization were also sentenced yesterday in the same case, receiving prison sentences ranging from five to 11 years. Albert Sitbon, Abutbul's "right-hand man," was sentenced to 11 years. Gavriel Assor, who was convicted of directing the organization, received an eight-year sentence. Abutbul's attorney, Barak Bofman, who Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom described as the "adviser behind the scenes," was sentenced to five years in prison. David Zuaretz, who was also convicted as a manager of the organization, received a seven-year sentence. All four were also sentenced to a year's probation, and each was fined NIS 150,000.

The prosecution had recommended a sentence of at least 25 years for Abutbul. Under the Organized Crime Law, heading an organized crime organization is itself a crime that carries a 10-year sentence. In addition, the sentences for crimes prosecuted under the law are double those of the same crimes committed under other circumstances.

"At the end of today's deliberations, Assi said just one word to me - 'Supreme,'" Abutbul's lawyer, Nir Plesser, said after the sentencing. Plesser announced his client's intention to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court. "In my view, the court leveled a disproportionate punishment in this case."

The prosecutor in the case, Keren Bar-Menachem, said the state believes the sentences should have been much harsher and will consider appealing the sentences.

In her verdict, Judge Ofir-Tom said that the Abutbul crime organization "sowed fear and terrified people," and that Assi Abutbul was clearly responsible for deciding the organization's activities and how they were to be carried out.