JERUSALEM (Dec. 20)
Three terrorists from Jericho were sentenced by a Ramallah military court Wednesday to life imprisonment, ending speculation that their case would be the one to end Israel’s unwritten ban on capital punishment.
The accused were found guilty Dec. 13 of firebombing an Egged bus on the northern outskirts of Jericho in October 1988, just prior to national elections.
They caused the deaths of Rachel Weiss; three of her sons, ranging in age from 21 months to 4 years of age; and an Israel Defense Force soldier, David Delorosa, who died of asphyxiation trying to rescue passengers.
Israel has yet to impose the death sentence on a terrorist, and the prosecutor therefore asked for life imprisonment. To everyone’s surprise, the presiding judge, Col. Yossi Shapiro, remarked that the court would not be bound by the prosecutor’s request.
That suggested the possibility that the court would impose the death penalty.
Tension was high in the packed courtroom Wednesday, as Shapiro read his ruling, which was devoted mainly to the arguments for and against capital punishment for terrorists.
He rejected it in this case, saying, “The court should not be swayed by voices in the public and in the media calling for capital punishment.”
The defendants are Ahmad Takrouri, Juma Adham and Mahmoud Abu-Harabish. No members of their families were present in the courtroom. Their attorney announced she would appeal the sentences.
Israel has executed only one person in its history: Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.
Another convicted war criminal, Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, is under sentence of death. But his conviction has been appealed to the High Court of Justice.