24 Nov 2008

Court jails eight Israeli neo-Nazis

7:07 pm on 24 November 2008

An Israeli court sentenced eight people to jail terms of between one and seven years on Sunday after convicting them of a series of neo-Nazi attacks on religious Jews and foreign workers that shocked the nation.

The court in Tel Aviv found the eight, who included three minors, guilty of "neo-Nazi activities" and a spate of attacks that included the desecration of a synagogue, a justice ministry spokesman said.

The accused videotaped some of their attacks with the intention of posting them on the internet.

The videos, widely played on Israeli media, show the youths kicking and beating homeless people, drug addicts and religious Jews.

The eight were also convicted of "racial hatred" by the court, which found that several members of the gang based in the Tel Aviv satellite town of Petah Tikva had even planned to celebrate the birthday of wartime German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

In delivering his verdict, Judge Tsvi Gurkinkel described the attacks as "a grave phenomenon, shocking and horrible."

"The fact that they are Jews from the ex-Soviet Union and that they had sympathised with individuals who believed in racist theories is terrible."

Gang leader Erik Bonite, also known as Ely the Nazi, was sentenced to seven years' jail.

Known as Patrol 36, the gang operated between 2005 and September 2007.

Searches of the suspects' homes turned up Nazi uniforms, portraits of Adolf Hitler, knives, guns and TNT, police said at the time of their arrest.

Israel, which was founded in part in 1948 as a refuge for survivors of the Nazi Holocaust and where the memory of the six million Jews murdered during World War II runs deep, was profoundly shocked by the revelations.