Judge slams police's handling of Jewish-Arab school arson

Jerusalem judge criticizes police prosecution of arson suspect's case.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Flash 90

A judge in the Jerusalem Hashalom Court on Sunday harshly criticized the representatives of the police claim in the against arson suspect Yizhak Gabai, who is suspected of arson, saying, "This is unprecedented and deviant behavior."

Gabai was convicted of setting fire to a Jerusalem bilingual (Jewish-Arab mixed) school in 2014.

The problems came up during "Moked" day discussions. During "Moked" day, a judge sits and listened to an unusually large number of cases, discussing their preliminary stages.

During the discussion of Gabai's case, police representatives attorneys Sarit Dror and Shir Kamah asked the cases be transferred to a different judge, since in their opinion, this judge would find objectivity difficult.

Judge Yitzhak Shimoni, who presided over the case, rejected their request because he had not yet formed an opinion and transferring the case to another judge would be a waste of time.

At that point, Dror and Kamah asked to delay the discussion for a few days, so they could decide whether or not to question the judge's response to their request. Judge Shimoni rejected this request as well, while expressing his disappointment on the behavior of the police prosecution.

He also apologized to the other lawyers who were present for "dragging out the process."

Since Gabai had pleaded guilty, the court ruled a plea bargain should be made. Shimoni asked both sides to state their opinion of what Gabai's punishment should be. To his amazement, the police prosecutors claimed they had been told "not to negotiate this case" even though that went explicitly against the court's decision.

"I've seen a lot in my years on the job, and I've never seen such unusual behavior as this in a criminal investigation. The court made its decision to continue this process, and that's what needs to be done," Shimoni wrote. "By behaving in this fashion, the police prosecutors managed to stop the case from proceeding, despite the decision of the court and despite the directives of the law... and this should be condemned."

Shimoni ordered the decision be passed to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, and the state and district attorneys.

Later, attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who represented the defendant, put forward his suggestion.

The court sentenced Gabai to two months in jail, that would follow his sentence for setting the school on fire.

In his decision, Shimoni also criticized the way the prosecution behaved, saying, "I cannot discuss the sentence without noting the unusual behavior of the prosecutor. Every decision we gave was ignored by the police prosecution and they caused made unprecedented obstacles for this process.

"I have not decided to start a suit for their shaming of the court, even though their behavior as representatives of the State certainly deserves it," Shimoni noted, adding their behavior is "in contradiction to all of the rules of conduct in a court" and their refusal to discuss the plea bargain was "unacceptable whatsoever."

Judge Shimoni also reiterated his instruction to send the sentence and the entire protocol to Shaked, the State Attorney, and the Attorney General.

Ben-Gvir resonded, "The police prosecution's behavior is absolutely unacceptable and constitutes a severe shaming of the court. Unfortunately, the judge let these representatives off, even though he could have fined them or sent them to jail. I don't remember any such case in which a police prosecutor refusd to accept the decision of the court.

"From age 14, I have been making decisions, I didn't always like the decisions I made but I never thought to stand in front of a judge and make fun of him, laugh at him, and decide t let myself do whatever I want while making light of his requests. That's serious and it's galling.

"The latest police prosecutors acted like criminals and I am sorry to have witnessed this kind of behavior and precedent. I hope the responsible parties and committees will deal with this issue like they need to."

The police responded, "The claimants will read the decision and decide if they should question the results. We would like to note that we take all criticism to heart and try to make the appropriate positive changes."