Four Arrested in Connection to Be'er Sheva Lynching of Eritrean Asylum Seeker

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Haftom Zarhum, who was killed by a mob wrongly suspecting him of terrorism on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
Haftom Zarhum, who was killed by a mob wrongly suspecting him of terrorism on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

Israel Police arrested four suspects - including two Prison Service wardens, one of whom was an officer - Wednesday night in connection to the lynching that left Eritrean asylum seeker Haftrom Zarhum dead following last week's Be'er Sheva terrorist attack. Further arrests are expected.

The Prison Service Wednesday denounced the attack on Zarhum, in which the wardens allegedly took part. “Violence runs contrary to the organization’s values and, according to the investigation’s results, we’ll act to denounce the participants and bring them to trial,” Prison Service officials said.

Zarhum was attacked and beaten as he lay in a pool of blood on the floor of the Be’er Sheva central bus station after being shot by a security officer who suspected he had carried out the terror attack that just took place.

Earlier Wednesday, an autopsy report issued by the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine determined Zarhum died from gunshot wounds and not as a result of the mob beating that followed.

The autopsy found that Zarhum had eight gunshot wounds, two of which were fatal. On the day of the terror attack, Ziad As’am, the bus station security officer, claimed he fired just one shot at Zarhum. If this claim is substantiated, the police will have to determine how seven more bullets hit Zarhum.

Medical officials said that Zarhum suffered serious damage to his liver, lungs, diaphragm and colon, as well as multiple rib fractures as a result of the gunshot wounds. At the time of the beating, Zarhum was already mortally wounded by the gunfire and had lost a lot of blood. The autopsy also found that the beating to his head caused a broken nose, but no brain damage.

The determination of the cause of death has many implications for the charges that could be brought against those who beat Zarhum following the gunfire. Professor Emanuel Gross, an expert in criminal law, told Haaretz on Monday that if Zarhum’s death was caused by the shooting, his attackers could still be charged with assault or causing serious bodily harm, offenses punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

If the autopsy reveals that the beating accelerated Zarhum’s death, they could possibly be charged with murder or manslaughter. Legal expert Mordechai Kremnitzer said that “even if someone is already dying and the blows only hasten his death, that is sufficient basis for a charge of manslaughter, and if there was an intention to kill, it could also constitute murder.”

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