Supreme Court Stiffens Jail Sentence for Bilingual School Arsonists

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Nachman and Shlomo Twito in Jerusalem District Court, July 22, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

Israel's Supreme Court stiffened on Sunday the prison sentences of two far-right Jewish brothers convicted of a politically motivated arson of Jerusalem's bilingual school, adding another eight months to their  sentences.

Shlomo and Nahman Twito were convicted under a plea bargain of torching the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in November 2014. The plea bargain included no guidelines regarding the sentence, but the Jerusalem District Court decided to sentence them to 24 and 30 months in prison, respectively, prompting the state prosecutor to appeal what they described as a lenient sentence.

Racist slogans painted on a wall at Jerusalem's bilingual school during a suspected anti-Arab arson attack, Nov.29, 2014. Credit: Tali Meir

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who headed Sunday's panel of six judges, ruled that "parents who choose the bilingual school follow a unique path different to that of most of Israel's citizens and residents in order to fight in their own way for the values to coexistence." Those who attack them, added the judge, "add fuel to the fire of tension between Jews and Arabs, and humiliate the Arabs among us."

Last December, Yitzhak Gabbay, the third man found guilty in the torching of the school, was sentenced by the Jerusalem District Court to three years in prison after he refused to sign the plea deal in which the Twito brothers confessed to the arson.

Last August, the prosecution appealed the brothers' sentencing, saying that the punishment doesn’t serve as a deterrent that stops others from emulating the arsonists' actions. The prosecution didn’t state an appropriate punishment, but said that the District Court was wrong in deciding that the minimum punishment for this type of arson should be 10 months' imprisonment. Instead, it said, the minimal punishment in such cases should be two years' imprisonment.

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