Three more Israelis indicted in violent mob attack on Arab man, none charged with attempted murder

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Three more people were indicted on Monday in the violent mob attack on an Arab driver in Bat Yam last month that left him in serious condition.

Six people have been indicted over alleged participation in the assault on Said Moussa, which involved over 20 people, according to a Haaretz investigation.

The Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s Office filed the indictments on Monday against three men, all Jewish: David Botayer, Shai Simhon, and Yaakov Cohen.

Boyater was charged with an act of terror with intent to harm and theft with racist motives; Simhon with aggravated intent to harm and with intentionally causing damage to a vehicle; and Cohen with aggravated intent to harm. None of them were charged with attempted murder, for which they had been suspected.

In the indictments, Botayer is alleged to have kicked Moussa several times while he was on the ground, chased after him and shouted “Arab” before kicking him three times in the head and neck. Shortly before that, Boyater was seen breaking the windows of an adjacent restaurant known to be owned by an Arab and, along with others, stealing canned drinks, according to the indictment against him.

Botayer didn’t deny the accusations as described by police investigators, but claimed that he had arrived at the scene by chance. His attorney, Zohar Barzilay, said his client’s role in the assault – “two or three kicks,” as he described it – wasn’t serious enough to qualify as attempted murder. Barzilay also said police didn’t provide Botayer with clothing and food during his first few days in jail.

In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Botayer was shown hugging other suspects in the incident.

As for Simhon, who already faces suspended sentences of nine months for eight previous cases of violent and property offenses and possession of a knife, the prosecution alleges that in the Bat Yam assault he approached the scene after Moussa’s car had crashed into another vehicle as he tried to escape from the mob. Simhon is alleged to have hit Moussa six times in the head after the latter had fallen to the ground, broken his car’s windshield and tried to rip off its doors. The indictment states that Simhon initially denied he was present at the assault, but eventually admitted he was after police showed him video evidence.

Simhon contended that while he was driving to his mother-in-law, he heard people warning of a terrorist and therefore got out of his car and attacked Moussa. However, a police investigator said that none of the videos filmed that night recorded anyone shouting warnings about a terrorist.

After his remand was extended for a second time, Simhon yelled at the judge and police representative in court, “I punched him two times. I thought he was a terrorist.”

Simhon was initially suspected of disrupting the investigation because he deleted contents from his phone, but the allegation was dropped from the indictment.

Cohen asserted that he had arrived at the scene of the incident just as Moussa hit another vehicle, and concluded that he was witnessing a hit-and-run attack. Evidence showed that Cohen slammed a drinking glass at a vehicle and kicked it, and was later documented kicking Moussa in the torso. When Moussa was put on a stretcher to be taken away in an ambulance, Cohen allegedly attacked him again.

The police alleged during a remand hearing that Cohen asked another suspect to erase videos from his phone documenting the attack, claiming that he “was afraid that Arabs would hurt us.” He allegedly did the same on his phone before handing it over to police investigators. Nevertheless, the police dropped charges of disrupting the investigation.

Apart from the three indicted on Monday, last month prosecutors indicted Netanel Binyamin, 25; Lahav Nagauker Ohanina, 18; and a 16-year-old whose name remains under a court gag order. They have been charged with terrorism involving attempted murder, aggravated assault, malicious damage to a vehicle with a racist motive, theft with a racist motive, rioting that resulted in damage with a racist motive, incitement to terrorism and incitement to racism, each according to the individual defendant’s alleged role in the incident.

An investigation by Haaretz found that about 20 people present during the attack could be identified by their faces. Others can’t be easily. At least some of the alleged attackers remained at the scene and were interviewed on television smiling minutes later.