An Israeli military court in the West Bank acquitted a Palestinian charged with attempting a terrorist attack because he did not follow through on his plans.
According to the indictment, Moataz Bari traveled to the central Israel city of Rosh Ha’ayin in 2020 intending to carry out a shooting attack. After walking armed through the city's streets for hours, he ended up changing his mind at the last minute. Shortly afterwards he was arrested.
Judge, Lt. Col. Rani Amar, ruled that Bari should be acquitted of intentional attempted homicide because he had desisted from shooting out of remorse. Acquitting Bari, the judge added, will send a message “to every Palestinian who decided to attack innocent people that there is a way back."
Bari, who worked in Rosh Ha’ayin at the time, bought a gun from a Jewish contractor in 2019, the indictment says. In 2020 Bari decided to carry a shooting attack against Israelis and commit suicide after a woman he was in love with had been killed in a car accident. He prepared a will and crossed into Israel through a breach in the separation barrier.
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At first, Bari intended to shoot a woman and a small child he saw on the street, but changed his mind after hearing the girl call her mother, the indictment says. Searching for another victim, he saw a religious man and started talking to him, but after noticing a baby in the man’s car he decided not to shoot them.
He later noticed a group of workers, with one of them approaching Bari. At this point a police officer arrived at the scene and identified Bari after receiving intelligence on his intent to carry out an attack. The officer arrested Bari and confiscated his loaded gun along with an extra magazine and a box of bullets.
The military prosecution argued that Bari should be convicted since he changed his version regarding his intent to carry out the attack, making his testimony unreliable. The prosecution asserted that Bari was looking for a suitable victim until his arrest, making it impossible to derive that he would not have fulfilled his intent had he found a suitable target and if the police hadn’t arrived.
The first time Bari was investigated by the Shin Bet security agency he denied carrying a gun and claimed the police had planted it. Bari then changed his version, telling a Shin Bet investigator that he was planning to carry out a terror attack after his girlfriend's sudden death. A Shin Bet memo noted that Bari broke down in tears and hugged the investigator.
Bari's laywer, Merav Khoury, said he actively prevented the shooting on his own accord, despite having ample opportunities to go through with it. Khoury also asserted that Bari could have shot the arresting officer but didn't do so because he changed his mind. The judges accepted her claims and ruled that Bari didn't carry out the attack because he had a change of heart.
Bari's laywer, Merav Khoury, said her client actively prevented the shooting, despite having ample opportunities to go through with it. Khoury also asserted that Bari could have shot the officer who arrested him, but didn't do so because he changed his mind. Three judges accepted her claims and ruled that Bari didn't carry out the attack out of remorse. Ultimately, Bari was convicted of dealing arms, carrying a firearm, stone-throwing, and illegal entry to Israel.
Khoury said in response that the judges' decision "could make those already on their way to carry out an attack think twice, knowing they will not be charged if they change their mind."