This is news? Why don't we report next on "The sky is blue"?
September 06, 2007
BEERSHEBA, Israel -- An Israel defense attorney has accused the state of political bias in the prosecution of a Jewish teenager convicted of assaulting a Palestinian stone-thrower.
Defense attorney Yarom HaLevi said the prosecution discriminated against Shimshon Cytryn when it indicted him on charges of attempted murder of Hilal Ziad Mujaida in June 2005. On June 3, Cytryn, 20, was acquitted of the attempted murder charge, but convicted of aggravated assault, punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years.
"The defendant was charged with attempted murder, and I, as a jurist, consider that this was not done by mistake on the part of the person responsible for the indictment," HaLevi said. "My opinion is that the person who wrote the indictment was influenced by his own political leanings."
Both Cytryn and Mujaida, 23, were said to have been involved in a melee between Jews and Arabs along the Gaza coast weeks before the expulsion of 16,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank in August 2005. Cytryn was prosecuted on the basis of a video that showed him hurling an object toward Mujaida, who had been lying injured.
"This Arab didn't go to the grocery store and was attacked as he carried his groceries in his right hand and his violin in his left hand, but he is seen throwing rocks in every direction," HaLevi said. "And although I had the photograph of him [Mujaida] throwing stones, I didn't use it because it wasn't relevant in the earlier stages of the trial."
Mujaida, who was not brought to testify, asserted that an Israeli soldier struck him with an M-16 assault rifle during the rock-throwing battle. According to video shootage shown in court, the object hurled by Cytryn did not strike Mujaida.
"A young Arab is shown throwing rocks at Israelis, soldiers and youths, and he is held by soldiers and released to freedom like a wounded bird," Halevi told the Beersheba District Court on Sept. 4. "No one puts him on trial. But the Israeli youth is tried for throwing stones and convicted of aggravated assault. So what's happening here? The Arab youth also threw stones, so what's the difference? But someone, somewhere, decided that the Arab youth is better. And my colleague speaks about racism."
In the pre-sentencing hearing, prosecutor Yariv Zeri argued that Cytryn was a violent racist who attacked Mujaida because he was an Arab. Zeri, who called for a stiff sentence, said Cytryn's attack was unrelated to the expulsion of Jewish residents from the Gaza Strip.
"We must treat this as a regular case of violence, and relate to the defendant as a violent criminal and not as an ideological fighter for justice, and not as someone who joined the mass opposition to the Disengagement [expulsion]," Zeri said. "There was a small group of hoodlums and vandals, led by the defendant, whose only goal was to injure Arabs. We are speaking about a violent racist act which portryas a dangerous person who must be distanced from society."
Judge Hannah Slutky questioned the prosecutor's contention that Cytryn was a mere racist. The judge also said the prosecutor misrepresented a psychologist's report that Cytryn refused to express regret for hurling an object toward Mujaida.
"Would you have him [Cytryn] throw stones at our own soldiers?" Slutky asked.
Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 16.