A Jerusalem court on Monday convicted two Israeli youths in the grisly killing last year of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir, while delaying a verdict for the third suspect in the case due to a last-minute insanity plea.
The killing of Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death, was in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank — slayings that set off a chain of events that led to the 50-day Gaza war in the summer of 2014.
Monday's verdict could further increase Israeli-Palestinian tensions amid a two-month violence that has been convulsing the region.
In the ruling, Judge Jacob Zaban determined that the third suspect, 31-year-old Yosef Haim Ben David, and two Israeli minors — whose names were not released — had abducted Abu Khdeir from an east Jerusalem sidewalk in July 2014 and burned him alive in a forest outside the city.
The judge determined that Ben David drove the Palestinian teen while his two accomplices beat Abu Khdeir unconscious in car. One accomplice helped Ben David douse Abu Khdeir with gasoline, and the older suspect lit the match. The two minors confessed to the kidnapping in court, while Ben David did not testify.
The three suspects were arrested shortly after the killing but their trial had been held behind closed doors.
The judge told the court on Monday that an insanity plea submitted by at the last minute Ben David's attorney, Asher Ohayon, would be examined separately, "despite regular and appropriate protocol" later in December.
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Prosecutor Uri Corb said the case was a stain on Israeli society. "When we try to claim we are better than our enemies ... we will always have this incident as a mirror," Corb said.
Abu Khdeir's father Hussein denounced the verdict. "This is a lie," he told Israeli Army Radio. "I am afraid that the court will release them (suspects) in the end."
The two convicted minors will be sentenced in mid-January. One of them had claimed he did not realize the group would kill Abu Khdeir while the other said he took part in strangling the Palestinian youth in the car and pouring gasoline on his motionless body.
Israeli law prohibits publishing names of minors on trial. The two minors were 16 years old at the time of the crime, according to their attorney Avi Himi.