Neo-Nazi Youth Asks Court to Lengthen Jail Term to Serve in IDF

A Holon youth belonging to a neo-Nazi group convicted of possessing explosives has asked a Tel Aviv court to extend his sentence so he can be eligible for a special program allowing him to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces.

The young man told Tel Aviv District Court that he wants to join the Ofek elite reconnaissance unit after completing the two-and-a-half-year prison term he received on a plea bargain for the possession offense.

Ofek is a special program run jointly by the IDF and Israel Prison Service, which allows convicted criminal offenders to enlist after completing their jail terms.

The catch is that the Holon youth must be convicted of a more serious crime to remain in prison until the November 2009 conscription round.

The teen said he is willing to extend his jail time to finally bury his past as a member of a Petah Tikva neo-Nazi group.

The minor has already served over a year of the term, a period expected to be included in his final sentence.

Given the courts' tendency to cut prison terms by a third for good behavior, even a maximum sentence is likely to result in the youth's release before the enlistment date.

His attorney, Adi Lister, asked the court whether it is necessary to convict him of a more serious offense, or to cancel the good-behavior reprieve, for him to remain in prison until November 2009.

"We live here, and everyone needs to contribute to the state. Every young person has to serve," the teen's father told Haaretz.

The father also emphasized his desire to see his son serve in a combat capacity despite his being an only child. Asked whether suspending his son's freedom for several months for him to join the military seemed unreasonable, he said, "We think it's better for him."

Lister said that if the teen's prison term is reduced, he will be ineligible to enlist upon his release, as he will not fall within the program's criteria. The Ofek program allows convicted youths to have their criminal records erased after serving a full three-year term in the military.

Eight members of the neo-Nazi group, all immigrants from the former Soviet Union aged 17 to 20, were given plea-bargain sentences for racially-motivated violent acts and verbal assault against foreign workers, homeless people and religiously observant Jews.

The members allegedly obtained TNT at the request of the group's head for the purpose of attacking a group of Tel Aviv youths described as "punks."

"This is a matter of returning to the path he left because of the violation," Lister said.

She said she didn't only want to prove that the youth had abandoned his neo-Nazi views. "He told me, 'You have to understand, it's as if you're stuck somewhere where you have no future, and someone comes with a lifeline and says 'here, take your future back,'" she said.