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Eight Israeli neo-Nazi gang members sentenced to jail in a Tel Aviv court

JERUSALEM — The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced the eight defendants in the Neo-Nazi gang case that shocked the country more than a year ago to jail terms ranging from one to seven years on Sunday, Nov. 16.

All eight gang members admitted to the charges and were convicted in plea bargains for a serious of racism- and violence-related offenses.

The group was arrested in September, 2007, after police followed leads on a gang acting against foreign workers and religious Israelis, which was also accused of defacing synagogues in Petah Tikva and was suspected of planning an attack with explosives on Tel Aviv punk groups.

When they were arrested — three of the members still minors — photographs of the members giving the Nazi salute and wearing National Socialist insignia were found in their possession.

Judge Tzvi Gurfinkel wrote in his verdict that “this is a serious, shocking and horrifying phenomenon which reminds one of the dark events of Kristallnacht.

“The fact that these are Jews who came from the Former Soviet Union and socialized with elements who believe in the [Nazis’] racial theories is terrible, and one cannot entertain their excuse that they socialized with these elements in a bid to win their favor.”

The group’s leader, Arik Boniatov, known by the nickname “Eli the Nazi,” was given seven years in prison.

He was charged with attempting to commemorate Adolf Hitler’s anniversary in a ceremony during which he made the gang members swear allegiance to “defending the White Race.”

His lawyer said in response that the court punished him harshly, not taking into account that he was “a product of Israeli society and not a neo-Nazi.

“He has expressed remorse and is ashamed of his actions.”

The lawyer, Shimshon Weiss, said he would consider filing an appeal with the High Court of Justice.

Judge Gurfinkel wrote in his verdict that despite the defendants’ “lack of understanding of the historical context of their actions, their personal situations and their young age,” which were “points helping to avoid too harsh a punishment,” there was still “no possibility to punish them lightly.”

This is because “no Israeli citizen can come to terms with the terrible phenomenon that has been revealed.”

Two lawyers representing a minor defendant said they will appeal to the High Court of Justice.

“We are sure the high court will prefer rehabilitative treatment to a jail term, as all social services and therapists have recommended.”

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