JERUSALEM (Jun. 21)
Gilad Peli, a 31-year-old settler from the Golan Heights, drew a 10 year prison sentence today on four counts of terrorist conspiracy and membership in a terrorist organization.
Peli, a captain in the army reserve, appeared stunned, as were members of his family and friends by the stiff sentence handed down by Judge Israel Weiner in Jerusalem District Court. Sentence was pronounced exactly one week after Peli confessed to a series of offenses in a plea bargaining process and he apparently had expected lighter punishment. The prosecution dropped charges of attempted murder.
Peli’s lawyer, David Rotem, said the sentence would be appealed to the Supreme Court. He agreed with observers however that it might set a precedent for the sentencing of any of the other 22 suspected members of a Jewish terrorist underground now on trial who are convicted and for 25 year-old Yosef Zuria who, along with Peli, confessed last week.
JUDGE STRESSES GRAVITY OF OFFENSE
That view was strengthened by Judge Weiner’s stern lecture on the gravity of Peli’s offenses as he pronounced sentence. He was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization; conspiracy to blow up the Al Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem; conspiracy to booby-trap the cars of West Bank Arab mayors; theft and destruction of army property; and transporting arms.
Peli drew five years on the conspiracy charges and another five years for theft of weapons. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for membership in a terrorist organization, to be served concurrently with the other sentences.
Peli’s father, Matityahu Peli denounced the sentences and claimed his son was convicted because “he loved the land and people of Israel.” His wife, Yehudit Peli, agreed. She said she would raise their children to love Israel just as their father does. Peli’s father-in-law said he should have received no more than four years at most.
WEINER: ISRAELI DEMOCRACY THREATED
As the prisoner stood before the court, Judge Weiner noted that had the plots of the Jewish terrorist underground succeeded, the entire democratic society of Israel would have been shaken to its roots. He indicated that Pelis sentence was less to punish him than to deter others from similar crimes. But he castigated the defendant for using his position as an army reserve officer to steal huge quantities of explosives from an army base on the Golon Heights in 1982 and his part in stealing 50 land mines earlier this year.
The court took into consideration Peli’s previously clean record, his confession and the fact that he had decided not to participate in the assassination attempts on Ibrahim Dakkak and Ahmad Hamzi, members of the Arab National Guidance Committee in 1980. That organization has since been outlawed.
Judge Weiner drew a distinction however between Peli’s offenses and the offenses of Noam Yinnon, another suspect who plea bargained and was sentenced two weeks ago to 18 months’ imprisonment. Yinnon was convicted of transporting stolen land mines from which bombs were manufactured, but he did not know he was acting on behalf of a terrorist underground. Peli, on the other hand, confessed to membership in the terrorist group and was fully aware of its plans, the Judge said.
At the time of his confession, Peli was described as a secular Jew who turned to religion after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He joined Moshav Keshet on the Golan Heights and worked in the local school.