The Nazareth District Court on Tuesday ordered Roman Zadorov released to house arrest with restrictions until the end of his retrial for the murder of Tair Rada. On August 15 there will be another hearing at which the prosecution plans to appeal the decision, and accordingly it will submit a request to delay his release. Thus, Zadorov will not be released until at least the date of that hearing.
Rada was found murdered in her school in the Golan Heights town of Katzrin in 2006. Zadorov, who was working at the school at the time, was ultimately convicted, but much of the evidence has been hotly disputed. Zadorov was convicted unanimously by a panel of judges in September 2010 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in March 2013 the Supreme Court, in a rare step, ordered a retrial after an appeal. In June 2020 Zadorov submitted a fourth appeal leading to the current trial.
According to the new decision, Zadorov will be subject to electronic restraints, must be supervised 24 hours a day and can only leave his home with the approval of the court and accompanied by an inspector. He will be required to post a personal guarantee of 150,000 shekels ($47,000), a 200,000-shekel guarantee that he will appear for hearings, and must submit to a lien of 500,000 shekels on a property owned by him or someone on his behalf. Each of the parties appointed to guard him under house arrest will also put up 150,000 shekels as a guarantee.
Judge Taha Arafat said the state had not managed to prove that there are special circumstances which justify keeping Zadorov incarcerated, after he had been behind bars since being arrested for the murder in December 2006. The prosecution, Arafat said, “practically ignored in its arguments the length of time Zadorov spent in prison, and made its arguments as if this was the first hearing in his case.”
The prosecution said that it had asked for Zadorov to undergo a risk assessment survey, but the judge did not address this request in his decision. Lawyers who spoke with Haaretz noted that releasing a prisoner with electronic restraints without a risk assessment is rare in the case of a murder defendant. The law instructs the court to conduct such a review before ordering detention with electronic restraints, but allows it some flexibility, for example, in the case of a person with no criminal record.
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According to these lawyers, due to overload on the probation services as a result of the coronavirus restrictions, the courts have tended to release detainees without demanding this assessment, but generally not if they are murder suspects. The prosecution could use the lack of such an assessment as grounds for appealing Zadorov’s release.
In May, former Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer accepted the request by Zadorov, who was convicted of Rada’s murder in 2010, for a retrial. Melcer stated that the evidence presented to him showed “real potential for changing the results of the trial,” primarily the imprint of a shoe that was found at the murder scene with Rada’s blood on it and that did not belong to Zadorov. State Prosecutor Amit Aisman decided to conduct a retrial, but not to release Zadorov, on grounds that there is a good chance he would be convicted again.
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Arafat wrote that the rules are that a person detained for nine months must be released until the end of legal proceedings, unless there is justification for keeping him in custody. The judge noted, “These rules apply even more to a person who it has been decided will be retried after 15 years in which he sat in prison.”
The judge stressed that it was “not the appellant [Zadorov] who had to prove that he was fit for release, but the state that had to show that despite the passage of time, there are special circumstances that justify his continued detention behind bars. The state did not meet this burden [of proof].”
Arafat also criticized the prosecution, which he said ignored Melcer’s decision to hold a retrial. “This court does not sit as an appellate court on Judge Melcer’s decision ordering a retrial,” Arafat said. “And there was no place for the respondent to raise allegations that undermine the determination, in the decision to hold a retrial, that the defense had presented evidence powerful enough to justify a retrial.”
Zadorov’s lawyer, Yarom Halevy, said: “I feel great satisfaction. The family has also been waiting for this for 15 years, Roman has been waiting for it. The big goal is acquittal. The release should have been by mutual agreement, there shouldn’t have been a trial.” Halevy asked the court for time to obtain the guarantees needed to pay to secure his release, because he said the Zadorov family couldn’t pay it themselves.
Prosecution attorney Sharon Har-Zion said after the decision, “We believed that there was alleged evidence in this case, and that there is a reasonable chance of conviction. We still believe that the defendant is dangerous and we thought he should be in custody until the end of the proceedings.”