65 Israeli lawmakers sign letter requesting pardon of Ethiopian who killed his alleged abuser
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65 Israeli lawmakers sign letter requesting pardon of Ethiopian who killed his alleged abuser

(JTA) — More than half the members of the Knesset want Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to pardon an Ethiopian man who murdered his alleged rapist and abuser.

In 2010 Yonatan Heilo, now 29, killed Yaron Eilin, a powerful member of the Ethiopian community in Netanya who allegedly had abused him emotionally, physically and sexually for years. Eilin also allegedly raped and blackmailed Heilo on multiple occasions.

Convicted of murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison, Heilo has served five years. The Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal claiming he acted in self-defense but, according to Haaretz, downgraded his charge from murder to manslaughter and reduced the sentence to 12 years.

Yoel Hasson, an lawmaker with the Zionist Union party, organized a letter to Rivlin on Heilo’s behalf, collecting 65 signatures, according to Haaretz.

The letter notes that Heilo had no previous criminal record. It acknowledges that Heilo “committed a very serious act” and “should be punished.” However, it continues, “in no way is it possible to compare the killing in his tragic case and other cases of evil criminals.”

Heilo’s story, the letter says, “reflects the reality of the difficult lives of many members of the Ethiopian community, people whom the state and welfare authorities neglect, whom the police sometimes harasses, and in some cases many prefer to suffer in quiet simply because they feel that they have no one to turn to.”

According to Haaretz, the signatories represent all the parties in the Knesset.