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Cop's Sentence Pits Police against Supreme Court

The Supreme Court doubled the sentence of an officer who killed a car thief; police are hoping for a presidential pardon.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/22/2010, 8:30 PM / Last Update: 7/22/2010, 9:17 PM

Flash 90

The Supreme Court has doubled the sentence of police officer Shachar Mizrachi, who was convicted of killing a car thief. The sentence angered police, and Internal Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen have both openly stated that they plan to seek a presidential pardon for Mizrachi.

Mizrachi was initially sentenced to 15 months in prison for shooting and killing 24-year-old Mahmoud Ganaim shortly after Ganaim attempted to run him down during an arrest operation, wounding him lightly. A judge concluded that the shooting was not an act of self-defense.

"I'm not going to support a call to pardon [Mizrachi] – I'm going to lead it,” Aharonovich announced Thursday. His announcement was made shortly after he visited Shlomi Assoulin, a police officer who has been comatose for more than three years after being stabbed in the neck by a car thief from the Bedouin town of Aruar. Assoulin's condition has sharply deteriorated in the past two days, and doctors say his life is in danger.

"There's a huge gap between what's happening on the ground and what's happening in the courtroom,” Aharonovich said. “As a law-abiding citizen I respect the court's decision, but at the same time, it sends a terrible message to police officers.”

While Aharonovich and Cohen work for a pardon using official channels, concerned citizens have already begun efforts of their own. Avigail Srara, head of the organization Wives of Policemen and Prison Guards, sent a letter to President Shimon Peres on Thursday asking for a pardon.

Srara expressed respect for the Supreme Court, but said, “[Mizrachi's] conviction, and even more so the increase in his sentence, sends a problematic message, and gives the policemen the sense that the State has abandoned them.”

"The verdict against Shachar Mizrachi, an outstanding and promising detective who's entire future was ahead of him, and whose only crime that night was to attempt to defend himself from someone who tried to stab him, is nothing less than a slap in the face and a blow to the morale of the police force and its commanders,” she added.

Other Mizrachi supporters created a Facebook page dedicated to seeking a presidential pardon for the young officer, and an online petition with the same aim.