Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by the state to reverse the acquittals of Yaakov Shamba and Ronen Cohen, who had been indicted for the attack on asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum in Be’er Sheva in 2015.
A panel of justices led by Yosef Elron ruled that “there is at least a reasonable possibility that the [defendants’] actions were not done as part of the mob’s demands for revenge but as an attempt to provide help during a complex and tragic event.”
The Supreme Court ruling comes two years after a district court acquitted the two on the grounds of reasonable doubt after concluding that there was no way to dispute their claim that they had beaten Zarhum after he was mistaken for a terrorist during a shooting attack in which a Bedouin Israeli opened fire in the station, killing a soldier and wounding 10 others.
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Elron wrote in his opinion that “no one disputes that their actions led to the death of the deceased and that they honestly believed him to be a dangerous terrorist.”
In 2020, The Be’er Sheva District Court acquitted Shamba, a soldier in the Golani Brigade at the time of the incident, and Cohen, a prison warden due to reasonable doubt of their guilt.
The original indictment included four defendants, who were charged with aggravated battery, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Two of the defendants, David Moyal and Evyatar Damari, signed a lenient plea deal which was offered to all four, in which the two admitted to the crime of abusing a helpless person. Damari was sentenced to four months in prison and Moyal served 100 days of community service. But Shamba and Cohen refused to sign the plea bargain.
The pathology report submitted by prosecutors stated that the actions of the four had caused injuries to Zarhum, some of them serious, including a broken nose. But the pathologist also stated that Zarhum died from the eight bullets three people shot at him, and not from being beaten by the four defendants. Therefore, the four were not charged with manslaughter.