The Israeli teen killer of Palestinian mother Aisha Al-Rabi has today been released to house arrest.
Israel's Lod District Court yesterday decided to release the teen to house arrest, requiring him to wear an electronic tag. He was released today after the state was given one day to decide whether to petition the Supreme Court against the decision.
The 16-year-old – who cannot be named due to a court-imposed gag order – was charged in January with manslaughter, aggravated stone throwing and intentional sabotage of a vehicle "in the context of a terrorist act" for killing Al-Rabi in October. It was originally thought the teen could face "considerable jail time" with a maximum sentence of 20 years, even though he avoided murder charges which could have seen him face life in prison.
However, earlier this month Israeli judge Hagai Tarsi announced that "the Probation Service would examine the possibility of releasing the minor to house arrest with an electronic monitoring device at his grandparents' house in Kfar Saba," northeast of Tel Aviv. Tarsi said the suspect "would be under the supervision of his parents, grandparents or other designated family members 24 hours a day and that he would be forbidden from contacting others. In addition, the judge would set the suspect's bail at 100,000 shekels ($27,000)," Haaretz reported at the time.
Yet according to a report by Arutz Sheva today, the court's decision to release the teen was made following an opinion submitted by Director of the National Centre of Forensic Medicine, Dr. Chen Kugel. Kugel argued that the injuries found on Al-Rabi's head "do not correspond to the scenario of a blow from a stone," which is how the 47-year-old mother of eight is believed to have been killed.
Kugel added: "Two doctors supported me, claiming that the injuries to the deceased's skull were consistent with damage caused by very high energy, and not from one blow of a stone. One of these doctors also supported my view that there appear to be at least two focal points of impact."
Haaretz added, however, that other medical professionals disagreed with Kugel's interpretation, adding that "they believed a rock could cause this sort of damage".
Aisha's widowed husband, Yaqoub Al-Rabi, told Haaretz today that he had only heard about the release of the suspect to house arrest from the Israeli daily and that "no Israeli officials have updated him on developments in the case".
Al-Rabi added: "I am ask[ing] the Israelis, through you: If things were the other way around, do you think a Palestinian suspect would be released if the victim was Israeli? I think the answer for you, is fairly clear, but for us, as Palestinians, it pains me to say there is nothing to hope for."
In the indictment filed against the teen, a number of details about Al-Rabi's murder were revealed. The court heard how he and several other students departed from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva (religious seminary) in the illegal settlement of Rehelim, located on Route 60 south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on 12 October.
The group then ascended a hill near Tapuah Junction (Za'atara) of Route 60, where the teen "grabbed a large stone weighing roughly two kilogrammes and prepared to hurl it at a Palestinian vehicle, 'out of an ideological motive of racism and hostility toward Arabs everywhere'". Upon identifying the Palestinian number plate of Al-Rabi's car, he then hurled the large stone which smashed through the windshield of the passenger side and struck Al-Rabi in the head.
During the investigation which followed, the teen's DNA was found on the stone which killed Al-Rabi. In his testimony, the teen claimed this could have resulted from the fact that he "was walking around a lot in that area and might have spat and hit a rock".
The teen settler was represented by Adi Keidar, a lawyer belonging to the Honenu legal aid group which provides legal assistance to Israeli terror suspects. Keidar currently represents Amiram Ben-Uliel, one of two settlers accused of killing the Dawabsheh family in an arson attack on their home in the West Bank village of Duma in July 2015. Three members of the Dawabsheh family – father Saad, mother Riham and their 18-month-old son Ali – all died in the incident, leaving then-five-year-old Ahmed orphaned.
Although Ben-Uliel is still under investigation, this weekend his teen accomplice confessed and will be convicted of conspiracy to commit arson in a racially motivated crime. He confessed after a plea deal was reached, under which "the prosecution agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than five and a half years in prison".
In April, it emerged that extreme right-wing activists had been pressuring the teen not to accept the plea bargain. Shmuel Eliyahu, the rabbi of Safed in the north of Israel, was reportedly brought in to mediate between the State Prosecutor's Office, the teen and right-wing activists.
Eliyahu is a controversial figure, telling the teens suspected of killing Al-Rabi that they shouldn't fear prison because "this is where the road to political power begins". Eliyahu claims to have told the teens: "What's the deal? What are you being accused of? You threw a stone. Do you know how many stones are thrown in [the occupied West Bank] about which the [Israeli] army does nothing?"