Suspect Found Guilty in Church of Loaves and Fishes Arson Attack

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Reuveni conversing with his lawyer at the court case in Nazareth, July 3, 2017.
Reuveni conversing with his lawyer at the court case in Nazareth, July 3, 2017.

Yinon Reuveni, 22, was found guilty on Monday of all charges in the case of the arson attack on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes in June 2015.

Yehuda Asraf, 21, suspected of abetting Reuveni, was acquitted of all charges by Judge George Azulay.

The iconic Catholic church on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which is on the site where Christians believe Jesus handed out the loaves and fishes, only reopened in February after being badly damaged in the arson attack.

Reuveni and Asraf were arrested about a month after the conflagration.

Among the charges Reuveni faced were arson under aggravated circumstances, being driven by hostility towards a public to desecrate ground, conspiracy to commit a crime and using a vehicle to commit a crime.

Asraf was indicted of abetting, including providing the car and conspiracy to do other things.

Reuveni had formerly lived in Baladim, a West Bank outpost by Kokhav Hashahar in the province of Binyamin, which has become a point of friction with the Palestinians. Sources in the Shin Bet security service claim Reuveni had gone out of Baladim to set fire to mosques as well.

His lawyer, Itamar Ben Gvir, vowed to appeal the verdict, claiming that the defense had disproven the police's claims one by one, but the judge ignored the defense's arguments.

Prosecutor Avi Pasternak stated that the ruling against Reuveni is a significant statement by the court against Jewish terrorism. On Asraf's acquittal, Pasternak said that his part in the deed had been negligible and the court's ruling would be honored.

Right-wing NGO Honenu, who provided Asraf's legal aid, welcomed his acquittal.

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