The family of a soldier killed during an IDF raid near Ramallah in May has asked for the judges trying his accused killer to be replaced by judges who have the power to hand down the death penalty.
Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan counterterrorism unit, was critically injured when a marble slab was dropped on his head during an arrest raid on terror suspects in the al-Amari refugee camp. He was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, but doctors were unable to save him.
The suspected killer, Islam Yusuf Abu Hamid, 32, was arrested after a focused manhunt. His trial was set to begin in a military court on Monday.
On Sunday, Lubarsky’s family wrote a letter to Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek asking that the judges currently presiding over the trial be replaced with higher-ranking officers—lieutenant colonel and up—as lower-ranking judges do not hold the legal authority to approve capital punishment.
Lubarksy’s family threatened to boycott the trial if the judges are not replaced.
The request follows a meeting family members held with Afek several weeks ago at which they raised the issue.
In the letter sent to Afek Sunday, the family wrote, “You said at the time that this issue [the death penalty] would be left to policymakers, but we are not sure who they are. We met with the most senior officials—MKs, the defense minister and even the prime minister—last week. Everyone said that terrorists must be defeated and advocated changing the equation, and all of them said that they had instructed you and your people to work tirelessly to ensure that justice is properly served. They all said a death sentence would be possible in the case of this lowlife.”
Under Israeli law, military courts may sentence terrorists to death, but the long-standing policy has been to avoid this.
Matan Peleg, head of the right-wing Zionist organization Im Tirtzu, expressed support for the family on Sunday, saying that by not sentencing terrorists to death, “Israel is eroding its own deterrence.”
He said the state “must not let terrorists enjoy a peaceful life.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that Afek had yet to receive the letter and would respond after he read it.