The Nazereth District Court on Tuesday accepted the petition of Assad Shibli, the Arab driver who killed the young Jewish girl Tal Zino on Yom Kippur Eve in 2007, and reduced his nine year sentence granting him an early release.
On September 21, 2007, when the streets were empty for Yom Kippur, Shibli and an accomplice entered the Jewish town of Kfar Tavor in the north at high speed on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and headed directly for a group of children milling about near the town's synagogue on their bicycles. They executed a “wheelie” and smashed into nine-year-old Zino, killing her.
Shibli drove on after hitting Zino, going up on the sidewalk before hitting a pole and flipping the vehicle.
According to a Jewish witness from Kfar Tavor, Shibli – who lives in the nearby Bedouin village of Assad a-Shibli – drove recklessly near the local gas station two weeks before the incident, and threatened a Border Police volunteer: “wait and see what will happen on Yom Kippur.”
The Arab driver was sentenced to nine years for manslaughter but submitted a petition, which had been rejected three times in the past, before the court accepted it on Tuesday.
In the ruling, the court returned the decision to the parole committee which is to set special conditions through which the killer will be able to be released early.
The judges claimed in their ruling that previous decisions against the petition didn't have certain pieces of information, including "the fact that the petitioner underwent a treatment group regarding traffic crimes."
Likewise it listed he "reached an agreement to pay compensation and is standing by it," adding "he will work not in driving but rather in employment."
The judges said the three earlier rulings put emphasis on the severity of the crime and "didn't balance as required between that consideration and the process of treatment that the petitioner has gone through."
"Our hearts are with the bereaved family members, no one can fill the great hole in their hearts," they wrote. "And indeed the command of the legislature is that the family of the victim will be allowed to state their position."
Even while saying they identified with the pain of the family, the judges claimed that the Arab driver was no longer dangerous in their ruling.
In the original sentencing of Shibli, Judge Yitzhak Cohen wrote "nothing will return light to a child's eyes, but proper proportionality must be observed." Shibli's original nine-year sentence came despite the fact that manslaughter had a maximum penalty of 20 years.