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Abu Khdeir's killers sentenced to life imprisonment, 21 years

Feb. 4, 2016 5:04 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 5, 2016 2:06 P.M.)
Father and mother of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir pray at his grave in Shuafat, in occupied East Jerusalem, in July 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced to life one of the Israeli murderers of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir and another to 21 years behind bars, in a ruling Abu Khdeir's family condemned as too light.

The teenager's family had been seeking life sentences for both Israeli minors, but their defense attorneys claimed their actions had been influenced by a third killer, 30-year-old Yosef Ben-David.

Ben-David, believed to be the group's ringleader, has confessed to the killing along, but has so far escaped conviction pending a last minute psychiatric evaluation.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old from Shufat in occupied East Jerusalem, was kidnapped and murdered by the three extremists in July 2014.

All three confessed to beating the teenager unconscious before pouring flammable liquid on him and setting him alight. An autopsy later confirmed the teen had been burned alive

In addition to the minors' prison sentences, the court also ordered that they compensate Abu Khdeir's family with 60,000 NIS ($15,350).

However, Abu Khdeir's family said the sentencing was not severe enough and called again for life imprisonment for both killers.

Abu Khdeir's father, Hussein, told Ma'an: "Muhammad died again today, and we died with him. Does is it make sense to sentence the killer who kidnapped, tortured and burned Muhammad to only 21 years in prison?”

He said the sentence proved Israel was not a democratic country. "Israeli courts have two faces of judiciary: one for the Palestinians and another for the Israelis.

"If a Palestinian child throws a stone, he is sentenced to years in prison, but when an Israeli settler burns and kills a Palestinian child, he is sentenced to 21 years."

Hussein and his wife, Suha, said that the sentence would "encourage other settlers to commit more crimes against the Palestinians, because they know that the Israeli judiciary will protect them and cover for their crimes."

Abu Khdeir's death sparked international condemnation and placed pressure on Israel to bring Jewish extremists to justice. Many critics said such attacks were the result of total impunity for Israelis who attacked Palestinians.

At the sentencing hearing last month, both Abu Khdeir's parents gave impassioned testimonies to the court.

Hussein said: "We are trying to live our lives like before. We are going to psychiatrists. But our lives have turned dark. We are not thinking of our lives or our future. We only think of the heinous crime and why Muhammad was burned.

"My children are afraid and my 14-year-old son, Seif al-Din, sleeps in my bed since the incident -- he is afraid to go out of the house. We have nightmares. My wife screams in her sleep."

Meanwhile, Suha told the the court: "I am lost after Muhammad. He took my life with him. I was denied the right to say farewell or see him before he was buried because he was completely burned."

She added: "His pictures are everywhere, and every day I think about why Muhammad was killed -- what did Muhammad do to them?"
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