Israeli Deputy Mayor Suspected of Playing Role in 1999 Mob Murder

Arthur Rosen was found dead by the side of the road in 1999 after being hit by a car in what police suspected was not an accident

Illustration: A man under arrest.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's national fraud unit arrested Thursday a serving deputy mayor on suspicions he was involved in the death of a 22-year-old Israeli man in 1999, a few weeks after a well-known crime boss was arrested for his role in what the police suspect was a murder.

At the time, the body of Arthur Rosen was found on the side of the road outside the central city of Or Akiva. Rosen, who was known to the police, was initially thought to have been run over, but an autopsy later revealed he was shot to death.

Police suspect he was shot and then run over by a passing car, either by mistake or in a possible attempt to cover the murder.

Crime boss Asi Abutbul, center, appears in court, May 25, 2017.
Ilan Assayag

The police said Thursday that the suspect will be brought before a judge to have his detention extended.

Two weeks ago, the head of an Israeli crime organization, Asi Abutbul, was arrested for his suspected role on Rosen's murder. Abutbul, who is serving a 17-year sentence for heading a criminal organization, was arrested in April for his suspected role in the assassination of a prominent lawyer, Yoram Hacham, who died after a bomb was placed in his car five years ago. Information from the case led to Thursday's arrest of the deputy mayor.

The police asked that Abutbul remain in custody for his role in both suspected murders, but the judge refused their request, ordering him to be released from custody and sent back to jail to continue serving his senate.

His lawyer claimed that Abutbul should be released as he has been under arrest for over two months and has been unable to meet with his family during this time. "The suspect has lost 10 kg since he's been put under arrest," his lawyer, Avi Cohen said, adding that they believe he will be found innocent if police decide to prosecute.  

In explaining its decision not to renew what would be the police's eighth request to keep him under arrest, the judge wrote that the police can continue with their investigation while Abutbul is in his jail cell and not under arrest.