Tel Aviv Court Extends Detention of Jewish Suspects in Mob Attack of Arab Driver

Judge says there is no dispute about suspects' involvement in violent attack in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, which was captured on video

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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The attack on Said Moussa, earlier this month.
The attack on Said Moussa, earlier this month.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Sunday extended until Thursday the detention of three suspects allegedly involved in the attack on an Arab driver, Said Moussa, earlier this month in Bat Yam.

The three, David Botayer, Yaakov Cohen and Shay Simhon, are suspected of attempted murder and conspiring to commit a crime; two of them are also suspected of obstructing the investigation. To date three indictments have been filed in the attack, in which, according to a Haaretz report, there were 20 participants. Judge Christina Hilo Sa’ad stated that there is no dispute about the active involvement of the suspects in the assault, and there is evidence that contradicts the defense version of events. “We’re not talking about an innocent demonstration, but an organized effort to hurt Arabs,” she said.

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On May 12 a mob of right-wing Jewish extremists in Bat Yam pulled Moussa, 33, out of his car and beat him severely.

Botayer, who was videoed kicking Moussa a few times while he was on the ground, claimed that he had happened upon the scene. “David has no part in this act,” said his lawyer, Zohar Barzilai. “This was a man who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.” Simhon, who was driving to visit his mother-in-law, says that he heard calls warning about a terrorist, which is why he got out of his car and started to hit Moussa. A police lawyer said that there were no such calls in any of the videos documenting the incident. After his detention was extended, Simhon burst out, “I gave him exactly two fists, I thought he was a terrorist.”

In addition, Simhon is suspected of obstructing the investigation. He was filmed photographing the attack and according to police he also admitted to being a member of WhatsApp groups through which Jews organized to do harm to Arabs, but on his cellphone there was no trace of his video or his membership in these groups. Attorneys Josef Paryenti and Elika Levin, who represent Simhon, said, “The suspect didn’t plan to hurt anyone but randomly happened upon the incident.” They said he cannot be accused of attempted murder since the police have had difficulty ascertaining if the punches he delivered to Moussa caused him injury. Similarly, they argued that “There’s no technical evidence that he erased videos.”

Regarding Cohen, the police attorney said that evidence has come in recently tying him to the attack, and that he too was a member of WhatsApp groups through which Jews planned attacks on Arabs.

The suspect denied he was involved in the assault, telling the court, “You don’t see me hitting because I didn’t hit.”

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