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After 2 years behind bars, 'Hares boys' to be sentenced to 15 years

Dec. 19, 2015 7:16 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 29, 2016 10:05 A.M.)
Correction appended.

SALFIT (Ma'an) -- After over two years behind bars, five Palestinian teens from the village of Hares are expected to be sentenced to 15 years in prison and given fines of 30,000 shekels ($7700) for throwing stones, according to relatives.

The five, aged 16 to 17 at the time of their arrest, were each facing 20 charges of attempted murder and potential life imprisonment for allegedly throwing rocks.

An Israeli court issued a list of indictments against Muhammad Mahdi Suleiman,Tamer Ayyad Ahmad Souf, Ammar Abd al-Nayif Souf, Ali Yassin Ali Shamlawi and Muhammad Jumaa Muhammad Kleib, Suleiman’s mother told Ma’an on Saturday.

The sentences are expected to be given on Jan. 28, 2015.

The families of the five youths called upon local, Arab, and international institutions to take action towards reducing the sentences, and asked national institutions for aid in paying the fines.

The teens’ families as well as rights groups have said the youth were being held without evidence, and unjustly prosecuted in a military court system that convicts over 99 percent of Palestinians.

Their arrests on Mar. 15, 2013 followed the hospitalization of a three-year-old Israeli girl, Adele Biton, who suffered severe head injuries when her mother's car collided with a truck near the Israeli mega-settlement of Ariel.

The toddler died two years later from a complications following pneumonia, according to Israeli media.

The Israeli vehicle reportedly lost control after being hit by a stone, and the five teens were later accused of throwing stones that day at vehicles driving on Route 5, a highway leading to several nearby Israeli settlements.

Twenty Israeli drivers afterwards filed insurance claims stating that stones hit their cars, but the incidents lacked eyewitness testimony and the police received no calls at the time the teens were throwing stones.

All five denied the allegations, but later signed confessions "after being repeatedly abused in prison and during interrogations," according to "Hares Boys," an activist blog dedicated to raising awareness of their case.

One of the five, Ali Shamlawi, was reportedly told upon his arrest to "kiss and hug your mother goodbye. You may never see her again."

The Hares Boys blog wrote in their defense in 2013: "If the boys are convicted, this case would set a legal precedent which would allow the Israeli military to convict any Palestinian child or youngster for attempted murder in cases of stone-throwing."

Israeli Prime Minister in September declared a “war on stone throwing,” establishing a minimum prison sentence for adults who throw stones as well as allowing Israeli forces to use sniper fire against stone throwers in circumstances that pose mortal danger.

The PM at the time said that there would be "significant fines" for minors who commit such offences, as well as for their parents.

The Knesset had already passed a law in July making penalties for stone-throwing more severe. The new law allowed for stone-throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and 10 years where it could not.

At the time the bill was passed, Palestinian MK Jamal Zahalka said: "Who will the judge send to prison? He who demolished the home, seized the land, killed the brother, or the boy who threw a stone?"

This version corrects that the five Palestinian teens had not yet been sentenced at the time of publication.
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