Two members of the Israeli Border Police have entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution which will have them go to prison for a series of violent robberies of Palestinians who illegally entered Israel from the West Bank through an opening in the southern border fence near the community of Meitar, northeast of Be’er Sheva.
The officers entered into the plea agreement, after being convicted in October by the Be’er Sheva District Court on amended indictments. Their final sentences are subject to the approval of the court.
Legal proceedings are still pending against three other Border Police officers in the case. Details of the plea agreement were initially reported on Sunday by the Yedioth Aharonoth daily.
According to the plea agreement, one of the two policemen, Amit Edri, will be sentenced to a four-year sentence while the second defendant, Uri Medina, will serve up to two years and four months. The plea agreements also require the two to pay restitution to their victims, in addition to fines, and to be released on probation following their prison terms. The final terms of the sentence are subject to approval by the court at a hearing.
Edri, who was the commander of the Border Police team, admitted to five separate acts of armed robbery and assault. He also admitted to conspiracy to commit a crime, failure to prevent a crime, threats, abuse of his authority, destruction of evidence and breach of trust.
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The prosecution sought an eight-year sentence for Edri in mediation proceedings prior to the plea bargain, but ultimately agreed to four years. The prosecution and defense also agreed that the court would receive a probation department evaluation of his case because most of the offenses were committed before he turned 21. It was also agreed to that he would not begin serving the prison sentence until next August. A final decision on his sentence is due to be made by the court in April 2023.
The second defendant, Medina, was convicted as part of the plea agreement of armed robbery, demanding property by threat, conspiracy to commit a crime, destruction of evidence and breach of trust. His sentence is due to be finalized at a hearing in February.
According to the original indictments filed in 2020 against the two and against the three other defendants – Tal Mizrahi, Rafael Hazan and Lidor Tzafriri – the Border Police would wait for Palestinians to enter Israel through the breach in the fence and assault them and sometimes steal their money. The five were dismissed from their positions following the filing of the charges – along with six other officers who were suspected of knowing about the matter and failing to report it.
Two years ago, Kobi Shabtai, the commander of the Border Police at the time who now heads the Israel Police, ordered a pause in all Border Police training exercises and classes so that the force could watch a Channel 13 report on its “Hamakor” program on the case.
In explaining the plea agreement with two of the defendants, the Justice Ministry misconduct unit said the prosecution took into account the defendants’ ages, the absence of any prior criminal record and their admission to the allegations in the amended indictments.
The agreement provides for “significant” prison terms, the unit noted. “That conveys the message that harming civilians in general and disadvantaged populations in particular will result in a substantial sentence to actual prison time.”