Israel Convicts Mob Leader, 21 Others Amid Crackdown on Arab Crime

Prosecutors seek 24 years in jail for Odeh Kuthair, whose crime organization operates mostly in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm and in central Israel, according to police

Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni
Kotayer in a Tel Aiviv district court in 2018.
Kotayer in a Tel Aiviv district court in 2018.Credit: Meged Gozani
Ran Shimoni
Ran Shimoni

The Tel Aviv District Court on Friday convicted Odeh Kuthair, the head of a major crime organization in the Arab community, and 21 others of charges including attempted murder, accessory to murder, and more.

The police consider Kuthair's organization as a branch of the Hariri crime family, operating mostly in Umm al-Fahm and central Israel. The family's main income comes from loan-sharking and police estimate that the Hariri family is responsible for a third of gray market loans in Israel.

According to the plea agreement, the prosecution will request Kuthair be sentenced to 24 years in jail and will seek to impose a 1.25 million shekel fine. The defense will request a sentence of no less than 18 years.

In 2017, Kuthair and his associates killed three people in separate circumstances, with all three victims being cases of mistaken identity.

According to the indictment, Kuthair and others confessed to assisting in the murder of Avichai Vaknin, who was shot to death in Bat Yam in 2017. They reportedly followed Vaknin on the day of the murder and supplied the weapon with which the murder was committed.

Members of Kotayer's organization in court on Friday.Credit: Meged Gozani

The charge sheet also states that Kuthair and the other defendants assisted in murdering Firas Nadi and Maria Ghanem, who were shot to death in the same year.

In addition, Kuthair and his men were indicted for the attempted murder of Talal Arrar, following a family dispute.

They reportedly kidnapped one of Arrar's friends and kept him until he agreed to lead them to the victim. Members of the organization then shot Arrar multiple times, critically wounding him. In this case, Kuthair was charged with kidnapping and attempted murder.

The other defendants have also been sentenced to jail time, spanning 17 to 20 years.

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