17 Years After Lynching of Soldiers, Israel to Give Convicted Palestinian Policeman New Trial

Hatam Faiz Khalil Magari was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the lynching of two Israeli soldiers at the start of the second Intifada, but new evidence could change that ruling.

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Seventeen years after the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in a notorious Ramallah lynching, a military court will retry a Palestinian policeman convicted in one of the slayings on grounds that recently obtained evidence could change the verdict.

IDF reservists Yosef Abrahami and Vadim Norzhich were beaten to death by a Palestinian mob in October 2000 after they ended up in Ramallah by taking a wrong turn, shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifadah.

Hatam Faiz Khalil Magari was arrested two months later, and charged in 2001 with failure to prevent a crime. In 2002 the indictment was amended to a charge of deliberately causing death, equivalent to murder, and stated that Magari was one of those who beat Avrahami.

In 2004 Magari was convicted of deliberately causing death and other crimes, including a separate shooting incident. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Magari's conviction was based on witness testimony by Bassam Hassin a-Luah, who also incriminated seven other people in the lynchings. Two of them confessed to taking part in the beatings, but neither of them incriminated Magari.

Magari's appeal against his conviction was rejected. In 2015, however, he submitted a request for a retrial, saying that three men interrogated after his conviction provided information that could change his verdict. He claims that a fourth man, also had information that could have altered the ruling, but those investigative materials were not submitted to the court during his trial.

He also argued that two other Palestinians similarly incriminated by a-Luah were never prosecuted for their involvement in the killings, and the fact that they were not tried undermines the charges against him significantly.

Military Court Deputy President Col. Zvi Lekah accepted the arguments and ordered a new trial.

“Under the circumstances unique to this case there is justification for deviating from the principle of finality of judgment,” Lekah wrote. “This conclusion is based on additional evidence that the military court had not seen.”