Israel Seeks to Increase Prison Time for Terrorists; Lieberman's Party Pushing for Death Penalty

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A man suspected of assisting a terrorist as he carried out an attack in Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv in 2016 during a trial
A man suspected of assisting a terrorist as he carried out an attack in Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv in 2016 during a trialCredit: רמי שלוש

The Knesset is slated to advance new legislation when summer recess ends next week to increase the punishment of terrorists who committed murder or other crimes of terrorism.

The right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is determined to promote a separate bill to ease the use of death penalty by courts.

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A bill imposing a minimum sentence of at least 60 years in prison for terror-related murder committed, as opposed to the present 40 year minimum sentence, will be presented to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday. 

The bill has received broad support across party lines and is sponsored by both coalition and opposition MKs. The original sponsor is MK Amir Ohana (Likud) but others from Likud, Kulanu and the Zionist Union have also joined him as sponsors.

At the same time, Yisrael Beiteinu has announced it will continue to promote its bill to impose the death penalty on terrorists. This bill has been blocked so far in the Knesset and is waiting for the cabinet to examine its implications.

>> Editorial: Kill the death penalty bill

The new bill to increase punishment for terrorists would amend the sweeping anti-terrorism bill passed in June 2016. Today, the law allows judges to double the sentence in cases of crimes of terrorism, except for murder, compared to the same crime committed under “criminal” circumstances. But the existing law limits the maximum sentence, even after it is doubled, to only 25 years in prison.

In the case of murder, the sentence is life imprisonment, but this is commuted to a period of no less than 40 years in prison. The proposed bill would remove the section limiting the doubled sentence to only 25 years, and would set 60 years in prison as the minimum for a commuted sentence.

Yisrael Beiteinu party whip, MK Robert Ilatov, has asked Knesset House Committee chairman MK Miki Zohar (Likud) to restart the hearings on the death penalty for terrorism law. The proposed law would make it easier for military courts to impose a death sentence in cases of terrorist murder by allowing a majority decision of a three-judge panel, as opposed to the requirement of a unanimous decision today.

The death penalty bill passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset in January, but since then it has been frozen until the security cabinet discusses its implications. “Since then, over nine months have passed,” said Ilatov on Wednesday. “During this time, we asked the National Security Advisor a number of times to bring the proposed law for a discussion and vote in the security cabinet … We expect the coalition to advance the law and pass it,” he said. 

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