What happened to Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2, 2014, was any parent’s nightmare: The 16-year-old was heading to a nearby mosque in the pre-dawn hours when he was abducted by three people, in plain view of witnesses who tried and failed to catch up with the kidnappers. Abu Khdeir’s badly burned body was found abandoned in a forest in Jerusalem hours later, with an autopsy revealing that he had been savagely beaten before being set on fire while he was still alive.
The boy’s death was quickly linked to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish Israeli teens weeks earlier, a horrific crime that fed into the tension between the Israeli and Palestinian communities and is the focus of HBO's new series "Our Boys." The police’s handling of the case, as well as the subsequent trials, was also a source of contention for many Palestinians, not least of all Abu Khdeir’s loved ones.
Before police made any arrests in the case, Abu Khdeir’s family accused authorities of moving too slowly and treating the investigation differently because the victim was an Arab child, according to the Ma’an News Agency.
“We notified the police of the incident when it happened, but until now they haven't moved a muscle or arrested the kidnappers, despite their clear appearance in the surveillance cameras,” Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, said, referencing the fact that the abduction was captured by CCTV.
“If things were different and an Arab kidnapped an Israeli, it would have been uncovered in moments,” he continued.
Hussein Abu Khdeir, who stated that he was subjected to interrogation for hours following his son’s disappearance, went on to accuse authorities of trying to “cover the issue up.”
Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha Abu Khdeir expressed similar distrust in the police after authorities arrested six suspects in relation to her son’s killing, according to The Times of Israel.
“I don’t have any peace in my heart. Even if they captured who they say killed my son, they’re only going to ask them questions and then release them. What’s the point?” she said. “They need to treat them the way they treat us. They need to demolish their homes and round them up, the way they do to our children.”
She was likely referring to the Israeli practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists to discourage future crimes. Two years after Abu Khdeir’s death, his father called for the Israeli government to demolish the homes of the killers and strip them of their Israeli citizenship, but a judge ultimately rejected the family’s petition, claiming that too much time had passed between the killing and when the request was made, according to Haaretz.
Three people were ultimately convicted of kidnapping and murdering Abu Khdeir: Yosef Ben-David and his nephews, two minors whose identities were kept confidential due to their ages. The two minors were both ordered to pay reparations to the victim’s family; one was sentenced to 21 years in prison, while the other was served with life.
However, while Ben-David was found guilty at the same time as his nephews, his conviction was delayed after a last-minute insanity plea.
Hussein Abu Khdeir, said then that the sentence the two minors received was too light and criticized the court’s treatment of his son’s killers, Newsweek reports.
“It’s like they burnt Mohammed again. It’s too light of a sentence for the people who burnt him alive. A [Palestinian] kid throws a rock, he will get that same sentence,” he said. “They kidnapped him, burned him alive and [the court] gives him this sentence. This is not fair, it is not justice.”
He also expressed doubt in the Israeli justice system, commenting, “We are going to go to a higher court and we are going to sue the government and the police. We don't believe in the Israeli justice…. We don't believe that we are going to win anything with them."
“We are going to be after them so nobody else will suffer the way we suffered, and [to prevent] the burning of another Mohammad Abu Khdeir,” he continued.
Abu Khdeir’s cousin, Ansam Abu Khdeir, made similar statements about the justice system after Ben-David’s conviction was delayed, according to Mondoweiss.
“We have complicated feelings,” she said. “We don’t know what to feel. We already know there is no justice here in Israel.”
A court ultimately rejected Ben-David’s insanity plea, contending that he was sane when he carried out his crimes, and he was sentenced in 2016 to life in prison plus 20 years, in addition to paying reparations to the family, the Guardian reports.
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