Israel's Supreme Court Calls for Harsher Punishments for Arms Dealing

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The Supreme Court in session in September.
The Supreme Court in session in September.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Supreme Court has called upon the justice system to toughen penalties on crimes of arms dealing.

The court made the call on Sunday in its decision to reject an appeal by two residents of the Bedouin town of Rahat, who were convicted of arms dealing. One of them was sentenced to 10 years in prison and the other to eight and a half years. The Supreme Court justices wrote in their verdict that “the prevalence of the phenomenon in question, and its devastating consequences, require the harnessing of the entire justice system, including among other measures by ensuring harsh and deterrent punishment.”

Last February, the District Court in Beer Sheva convicted Bashir Abu Ziad in a plea deal of purchasing thousands of M-16 and Mag machine gun bullets, as well as M-16 rifle parts. Later on, Abu Ziad sold them to various people in Hebron for several thousand shekels. Hady Abu Zayed was convicted of selling the M-16 bullets to Abu Ziad, and in some cases of driving with Abu Ziad to Hebron to sell the munitions to others. He was also convicted of selling ammunition to various people in Nablus, and of possessing a telescopic rifle scope and a laser marker in his Rahat home.

In their appeal, the two argued that the sentences given to them by the district court significantly exceed the customary punishment for their crimes. They also argued that the district court did not sufficiently acknowledge their admission of guilt early on, and their consent to testify for the prosecution. In their view, these circumstances should be accorded significant weight, and particularly in regard to Abu Zayed, who surrendered a weapon he possessed to the police.

Supreme Court Justices ruled that in its sentencing, the district court successfully balanced between the mitigating circumstances and the appellants’ criminal histories, parole service reviews and the need for deterrence. They ruled that they have not found “any error in this balancing task, which requires our intervention.”

The justices also noted that the legislator has set harsh penalties for the crimes of which the two were convicted, and that “the eradication of the phenomenon of illegal weapons possession is a public interest of the highest order and a necessary condition for the fight against the various sorts of violent crime prevalent among us, a drying of the proverbial swamp that gives growth to these phenomena.”

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