Israeli Arabs 'Inspired by Global Jihad' Charged With Taxi Driver Murder

Yefim Weinstein, a 54-year-old taxi driver from Upper Nazareth, was found dead in November 2009; suspects say police coerced them into confessing.

Israel Police said Monday that three Israeli Arabs inspired by global jihad have been indicted for the 2009 murder of a taxi driver from Nazareth. The announcement came after a gag order on details of the case was lifted.

Men accused of killing taxi driver
Gil Eliyahu

Yefim Weinstein, a 54-year-old taxi driver from Upper Nazareth, was found dead near Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh in November 2009. Weinstein's body was found after passersby noticed his cab on the side of Route 75, between Nahalal and Nazareth, near the entrance to the kibbutz.

The alleged murderer, a Nazareth resident, and two friends who allegedly helped him flee the murder scene, were part of a cell of seven men who police said were tied to global jihad. The three were arrested during a joint operation between the police and the Shin Bet security service.

According to police, the seven-man cell regularly watched al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's speeches online and had wanted to join the fight against Jewish and Christian "infidels."

The indictment states that the suspects, all of whom are between 19 and 26 years old, were also allegedly involved in several other attacks against Jewish and Christian targets over recent years.

The group was exposed after two of its seven members were arrested in Somalia and extradited to Israel after they allegedly planned to fight against United States soldiers stationed there.

The suspects' attorney said on Monday that he has yet to see any evidence from prosecutors and that their confessions were coerced.

"It is unwise to put the cart before the horse," said defense attorney Rafi Masalha, who is representing the three suspects. "At this point, the prosecution can attribute what it likes to the defendants."

The suspects deny the charges against them and say investigators coerced them using physical pressure, including prolonged interrogations without sleep, being handcuffed and tied to a chair for lengthy periods of time and emotional pressure that included threats of arrest for family members.

Police said that during questioning over the Somalia incident, the two revealed their involvement in the Nazareth cell.

Police said the men admitted that they had decided to murder a Jew and that their victim would be a taxi driver. Police added that the men said they ordered a taxi from "Ben Gurion Taxis" in Upper Nazareth. Weinstein was the driver sent to pick them up late one night in November.

Police said the suspect apparently asked Weinstein to pull over at the side of the road near the Kibbutz Kfar Harosh, and then he shot him.

According to police, the investigation also revealed that in 2008, the group attempted a similar murder. They allegedly ordered a pizza from Domino's Pizza, and when the delivery man arrived at their destination, three of the group members allegedly attacked him, stabbed him and tied him up. The victim of that incident survived.

The group is also suspected of torching several tourist buses and throwing Molotov cocktails at a store belonging to a Christian resident of Nazareth.