Israeli Man Who Attacked Asylum Seeker He Mistook for Terrorist Gets Plea Deal

Haftom Zarhum, slain after being mistaken for the terrorist behind an attack in Be'er Sheva in 2015, was beaten by nine passersby, including Israeli security forces

Evyatar Damari at the Be’er Sheva District Court, 2016
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Be’er Sheva District Court approved a plea bargain agreement for Evyatar Damari, who attacked asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, who was mistaken for a terrorist after a shooting in the central bus station in Be’er Sheva in October 2015.

Damari admitted to the crime of abusing a helpless person as part of the plea bargain, but did not reach an agreement on sentencing. Prosecutors will ask the court to impose only a number of months of prison time, even though the maximum sentence for the crime is seven years.

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

On October 18, 2015, a terrorist opened fire at the Be’er Sheva central bus station, killing a soldier and wounding 10 other people. A mob attacked Zarhum, mistakenly thinking he was the terrorist, and the asylum seeker was killed. Damari was filmed by a security camera kicking Zarhum, after he had been shot.

A security camera filmed the violence to which Zarhum was subjected by nine people, including members of the security forces, prison officials and soldiers both in uniform and in civilian clothes.

The coroner’s report concluded that four of the attackers had caused Zarhum serious injuries, including a broken nose, but that it was the eight bullets fired by three different people that caused Zarhum’s death.

Security footage of Haftom Zarhum being assaulted at the bus station

The plea bargain arrangement with Damari is considered to be quite lenient considering the original charges of aggravated assault, which carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Four people were charged with attacking Zarhum as he lay on the ground dying after being shot by security personnel: David Moyal, soldier Yaakov Shamba, prison warden Ronen Cohen and Damari. Moyal was filmed throwing a bench at Zarhum after he had been shot.

Moyal was convicted in July as part of a plea bargain agreement and sentenced to 100 days of public service. The case against Shamba and Cohen is still being heard.

Damari told the court that he regretted his actions and would never repeat them. His lawyer ask the court to sentence him to a month and a day of community service, similar to the sentence imposed on Moyal, saying his actions were certainly no worse than Moyal’s – and probably much less severe because he did not attack Zarhum with an object as Moyal did. The court will sentence Damari on December 11.

Damari is now suffering from psychological problems and was hospitalized during the trial when his mental helath deteriorated.