Israeli President Shimon Peres has decided to reduce the sentences of five Israeli Arabs found guilty of brutally murdering two young Israeli Jews more than 20 years ago.
All five of the men were convicted after pleading guilty to the abduction, rape and murder of Daniel Katz in Haifa in 1983. Katz, who was 15 at the time, was beaten to death with sticks. Two of the Arabs also carried out the 1987 abduction, rape and murder of a young female Israeli soldier in northern Israel.
The killers later claimed that their confessions had been made under duress, and they were granted a retrial. During the retrial judges concluded that police interrogators had extracted the confessions in a lawful manner and upheld the original sentences.
Nevertheless, securing the freedom of the five terrorists has become a favorite cause of left-wing Israeli groups that regularly try to explain away Arab terrorism as the natural result of frustration caused by what they call Israeli discrimination and occupation.
In remarks carried by the local press, Katz's family accused Peres of bowing to the pressure of such groups.
“Peres hasn't even warmed the presidential seat and already he is busy releasing the vile men who murdered my brother,” said the victim's brother, Amnon Katz. “It cannot and should not be that the president decides to release killers who 20 judges have ruled responsible for my brother's murder.”
Extremist Israeli-Arab lawmaker Taleb el-Sana said he is urging Peres to also commute the sentence of an Israeli Arab who raped and murdered a 16-year-old Jewish girl in 1993.