Kristine L Ming

Court convicts second of Asher Palmer’s murderers

The Judea Military Court on Tuesday convicted Ali Saada of the murders of Asher Palmer, 25, and his baby son, Yonatan, in 2011.

Saada is the second defendant to be convicted of murder, following the previous conviction of Waal al-Arjeh for the same murders.

Al-Arjeh was sentenced to two life sentences plus an additional 58 years in prison in July 2013.

Al-Arjeh’s conviction set a legal precedent as it was the first time a military court has handed a verdict of murder for rock-throwing.

According to the IDF, Arjeh and Saadeh intentionally threw a stone from a moving taxi through the front windshield of Asher’s vehicle. The stone broke the windshield, causing Asher to lose control of the car which eventually overturned.

Initially, security forces thought Palmer and his son died in a car accident on Route 60 outside the Kiryat Arba settlement on September 23. It took days before the Defense Ministry recognized them as terror victims.

Palmer’s father Michael spoke at Arjeh’s trial, recalling arriving at
the family home to see “a gurney with Asher’s body wrapped in a tallit,
and a little box on top, in the box was Yonatan’s body.”

According to the Palmer family’s lawyer Adrian Agassi, this was not an incident in which a random small roadside stone was tossed. The object thrown at Palmer’s vehicle, he said, was more like a block, in that it was 18 by 11 centimeters and five centimeters thick.

“It was thrown from an oncoming vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction. At that velocity, it was like shooting a bullet,” Agassi said.

Arjeh was the ringleader of a gang that developed this method of killing Jews, Agassi said. They had tried it many times before, he added. The attorney said the defendant had worked for the Palestinian Authority security forces and as a taxi driver, and knew the roads in the area very well.

Leading up to Arjeh’s sentencing, Palmer also talked about an enduring picture in his mind of “Asher, Asher’s wife, Pua, and their son, Yonatan, sitting together on Shabbat” and of the “tremendous love between father and son.”

He noted that “Yonatan, like his dad, loved to smile, to be happy and he was just starting to talk – that is when Arjeh killed him.”

Next, Palmer mentioned that Pua had named the couple’s still-living child – unborn when her father was killed – Orit, because that was the name Asher had told her he wanted. He said that Asher and Yonatan’s lives “were taken by people who did not know them, who had never even seen them, for the simple reason that they were Jews.”

Palmer’s testimony was sudden, dramatic and unexpected, since he had previously submitted a written statement in order to avoid having to endure testifying before the court.

However, due to the defense’s procedural objections, the written statement was disputed. The choice to dispute Palmer’s written statement may possibly have backfired, as it led to Palmer’s spontaneous, moving and chilling testimony.

The IDF prosecution added that – at least until very late in the proceedings – Arjeh had “expressed no regret” and had “tried to cover up his role” in the crime. Additionally, he had “carried out more attacks” after the deaths of Asher and Yonatan.

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