Two Jewish minors were found guilty on Monday of the 2014 murder of a Palestinian teenager in Yerushalayim, but the Israeli court held off on formally convicting a third man accused of orchestrating the crime, pending a psychological review.
Prosecutors said the three had confessed to abducting, strangling and burning Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, in revenge for the killing days earlier of three Israeli youths by Hamas terrorists.
The Yerushalayim District Court ruled that the two under-aged defendants, whose names were withheld from publication, carried out the crime.
Under Israeli law, minors cannot technically be convicted before a review board endorses the verdict.
A Yerushalayim optician, who confessed to leading the crime, was also found guilty.
But the court deferred formal conviction over his lawyers’ eleventh-hour request for a psychological evaluation.
The request created an immediate uproar in the coutroom. Ben David has claimed insanity all along, but never filed a psychiatric report to substantiate it.
However, just moments before the verdict, Ben David’s lawyer made the plea, based on documents submitted to the three-judge panel in recent days.
State prosecutor Uri Korb leapt to his feet to object to the highly irregular tactic.
Korb’s position was that he was unopposed to considering the issue at any earlier stage, but that once the trial was closed and the court was about to announce the verdict, it was too late for a review of the psychiatric opinion.
While adult murder convicts generally get lengthy jail terms in Israel, comparable sentences are not mandatory for minors.
Court spokesmen did not immediately give dates for the defendants’ review hearings or sentencing.
Israeli officials welcomed Monday’s verdict as a warning against hate crimes.
“The court determined unequivocally today that the three defendants committed the barbaric crime of abducting an innocent person only because of his origin, and burning him alive,” said state prosecutor Uri Korb, vowing to contest any insanity plea.