Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres

Hevron activists Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir have asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to investigate the motives behind President Shimon Peres's decision to reduce the prison sentences of five Arab murderers.

Peres announced his decision Tuesday to quantify the sentences of five Israeli-Arabs from the north who brutally murdered 12-year-old Danny Katz of Haifa in 1983.  The five were twice convicted of the murders, after then-Chief Justice Aharon Barak ordered a second trial in 1999 - against the opinions of two lower courts, ex-Chief Justice Meir Shamgar, and the police. 

The murderers were sentenced to life in prison, which at the time was equal to a 24-year prison term; however, the sentencing judge added on another 27 years in order to prevent them from being granted parole.

Peres has now circumvented this caveat, ordering the sentences of two of them to stand at 45 years, and 30 years for the other three.  They become eligible after serving two-thirds of their terms, such that the three are liable to be freed any day.  The other two, who were also convicted of murdering female Israeli soldier Daphna Carmon in 1987, will be eligible for parole in 2015. 

Ben-Gvir and Marzel have sent an urgent letter to the Attorney General and to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss asking that they investigate the President's motives in reducing the sentences. 

"There is a genuine suspicion that Peres made this decision in exchange for the votes of Arab MKs during the Knesset's Presidential election earlier this summer," Marzel and Ben-Gvir explained.  They also threatened to file an appeal with the Supreme Court if their letter is ignored.

Peres, aware of the outburst of public opposition to his decision, explained himself further.  "I can understand the pain and outcry of the Katz family," Peres said, "whose son Danny was murdered by evil men."  However, he said, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and a judicial committee agreed that the sentences could be commuted. 

Peres explained why he, Friedmann and the committee agreed on punishments - 45 and 30 years - that were much higher than the customary life sentence at the time they were tried, which was 24 years.  He said this was because of the severity of the crime.  The bottom line, however, is that two of them are already eligible for parole. 

Danny Katz's body was discovered in a cave near the Arab village of Sakhnin four days after he disappeared from the vicinity of his home. He had been strangled and sodomized.