Israeli Judge Proposes Lighter Charges in Case of Asylum Seeker Mistakenly Killed During Terror Attack

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Haftom Zarhum, who was killed by a mob wrongly suspecting him of terrorism on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
Haftom Zarhum, who was killed by a mob wrongly suspecting him of terrorism on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

The judge trying the case of four men who attacked an innocent bystander during a terror attack in Be’er Sheva has proposed that prosecutors lighten the charges against the defendants.

The victim, Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, died after being shot and beaten at Be’er Sheva’s central bus station, where he was mistaken for a terrorist during an attack in October, 2015.

The four defendants, who attacked Zarhum as he lay on the ground dying after being shot by security personnel, are Prison Service Warden Ronen Cohen, soldier Yaakov Shamba, Eviatar Damari and David Moyal.

The prosecution, which charged the four with the serious crime of aggravated assault, an offense punishable by up to 20 years on prison, already proposed a plea deal that would include a reduced charge that could see the four sentenced to five years in prison. The defendants, however, refused the proposal.

CCTV footage shows Eritrean national shot and beaten in Be'er Sheva

On Wednesday the two sides met in order to discuss a possible plea bargain between the sides.

Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Yoram Zalkovenky suggested prosecutors significantly lighten the charges to assault, which could see the defendants sentenced to three years. A representative of the prosecution said he would pass on the proposal to his superiors.

According to sources with knowledge of the meeting, the judge claimed that it would be difficult to establish a motivational link between the defendants’ actions and Zarhum’s injuries, especially given the fact that five other perpetrators were not found. The decision whether or not to approve a plea bargain is expected to be made by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan.

According to the prosecution, “This case is in the phase of establishing facts and therefore, at this stage, we don’t intend to address any issue regarding the mediation process or negotiations between the sides.”

During the attack, the terrorist, Mohannad al-Okbi, opened fire in the station, killing soldier Omri Levy and wounding 10 people.