Israeli man gets probation for lynching of Eritrean asylum seeker

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Israelis and fellow community members attend a memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv for Habtom Zarhum, an Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a gunman at a shooting attack in Beersheba, in October 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)

An Israeli man was sentenced on Wednesday to 100 days of community service for taking part in a lynch mob attack on an Eritrean asylum seeker who was mistaken for a terrorist in the aftermath of a terrorist attack in southern Israel.

In the 2015 attack at the Beersheba central bus station, an Arab with Israeli citizenship shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded 11 others before he was shot dead by police.

During the turmoil, a security guard shot Habtom Zarhum, a 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker, believing he was the assailant.

Habtom Zarhum, Eritrean asylum seeker killed by Israeli mob

As he bled on the floor, Zarhum was beaten with objects and kicked several times by a mob that slipped through a loose cordon, in what police termed a lynching.

Zarhum later died, most likely of the gunshot wounds, at the hospital.

Under a plea bargain, David Muial, a 33-year-old Israeli who worked in a restaurant in the bus station, confessed to a charge of “abusing the helpless.” The court found Muial guilty of dropping a metal bench on Zarhum.

Under the terms of the deal, Muial was ordered to perform 100 days of community service and pay the Zarhum’s family NIS 2,000 (about $550), court documents showed.

The non-custodial sentence appeared to reflect medical findings that bullets fired by the security guard – who has not been charged in the case – were the direct cause of Zarhum’s death, rather than the beating he suffered.

The victim’s family is suing Israel for about $780,000 in damages. They allege that police and the security company guarding the bus station were negligent during the incident, which occurred during a wave of Palestinian stabbing and shooting attacks in Israel.

Three other Israelis, accused in the case of aggravated battery, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail, are still on trial.

In response to the sentencing, the prosecution said, “The accused took responsibility for his actions, confessed and expressed remorse, unlike the other suspects who are still in the process of being prosecuted.”

Muial’s legal team said in a statement Thursday that the prosecution took into account his “sincere regret and deep pain” over the incident.

“We hope that the end of this process will help [Muial] to collect himself and move toward rehabilitation,” they said.

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