State Prosecution Demands Harsher Punishment in Israel's First Polygamy Conviction

Prosecution demands the Bedouin man who married two women be sentenced to active prison time in lieu of community service

Amin Abu Sakik outside of the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court, February 28, 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel's state prosecution appealed a sentencing on Thursday, demanding a harsher punishment be imposed on a Bedouin man convicted of polygamy in 2017. 

Amin Abu Sakik, 34, who lives in Arara in the Negev, was married to A for more than a decade when he met H, a Palestinian woman 12 years his junior. The two were married in June 2017, and waited about two weeks until they asked the Muslim religious court to approve their marriage.

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Abu Sakik’s conviction is the first legal achievement for the prosecution since the country began enforcing its laws on polygamy, common mainly in Bedouin society, two years ago.

Be'er Sheva District Court Judge Ron Solkin sentenced Abu Sakik to 400 hours of community service, a one year suspended prison term and a fine of 36,000 shekel ($10,000). Solkin noted that the punishment for polygamy would be harsher in the future, and will gradually include jailtime.

Solkin said his decision to impose a lighter sentence on Abu Sakik stemmed from the fact he is the first (and the only) man to admit to committing polygamy, in addition to the fact that the sharia court in Be'er Sheva had approved his marriages.

In response, the prosecution argued that Solkin had erred in considering the decision of the local Muslim court as formal and legal approval and demanded Abu Sakik receive an active prison sentence.  

The prosecution added that Abu Sakik's marriage ceremonies were held privately without the presence of a religious representative of the state and only after he was married for the second time, he appealed to the sharia court to receive the official document confirming his new status before state authorities.

According to the prosecution, the marriage is not legitimate, but rather a "confirmation" that the recognition of their marriage is purely declaratory and thus does not grant them retroactive authorization for the offense. The State Attorney's Office said that the judge must ratify the marriage, arguing that the couple's marriage is not valid, but religiously established.