Policeman Convicted of Murdering Israelis, Sentenced to 12 Years
SUEZ, Egypt (AP) _ A military court today convicted a police conscript of murdering five Israelis and sentenced him to 12 years in prison at hard labor.
The court said it decided against a harsher sentence because it said the defendant, Ayman Mohammed Hassan, suffered from diminished mental capacity.
Hassan committed the crime after leaving his post and crossing into Israel in November. He was the second Egyptian border guard convicted of shooting Israelis to death since the two countries signed a peace treaty in 1979.
Presiding Judge Mohammed Wagdi el-Leithy said doctors who examined Hassan said the brain deficiency ″reduced his responsibility but did not negate it altogether.″
Hassan, a 23-year-old plumber, raised his arm and shouted ″Allahu Akbar 3/8″ (God is great) when he heard the sentence.
Relatives were overjoyed at what they apparently considered to be a light sentence. Under Egypt’s penal code, Hassan could have been hanged.
He was to have ended his tour of military duty in July.
Hassan was charged with killing five Israelis and wounding 26 in a cross- border shooting rampage Nov. 25.
The indictment also accused him of illegally using his submachine gun and ammunition and illegally crossing the Sinai border into Israel and returning to Egypt.
″The court found him guilty of all three charges,″ the judgment said.
Israeli officials said a gunman wearing an Egyptian uniform crept about 300 yards in Israel to a point close to a Negev Desert highway. He ambushed a bus and three military vehicles, raked them with gunfire from an automatic weapon, then dashed back into Egypt, they said.
The trial began Dec. 22 at the headquarters of the 3rd Army near Suez, a town at the southern tip of the Suez Canal, 85 miles east of Cairo. The sentence is subject to review by the 3rd Army’s judge advocate general.
Hassan pleaded innocent, but several witnesses, including his superior officer, testified he admitted the shootings in private conversations.
More than a dozen lawyers, mostly volunteers, defended Hassan. They attacked the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and contended Hassan was provoked by Israel’s anti-Palestinian actions.
The defense also argued that Hassan was not responsible for his actions because of a brain ailment.
Hassan tried to commit suicide Jan. 8 by slashing his wrists with a razor.
In 1985, police Sgt. Suleiman Khater went berserk in the Sinai and fatally shot seven Israel tourists, including four children. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was found dead in a Cairo prison cell days after his conviction.
Authorities said he hanged himself.