Neo-Nazi ringleader pleads guilty to assault, gets jailtime

Haaretz, Israel/May 6, 2008

The leader of a neo-Nazi gang from Petah Tikva was convicted yesterday in a plea bargain under which his sentence will range from four to seven and a half years in prison.

Arik Buniatov, 20, was convicted on several counts of aggravated assault for racist motives, ordinary assault, battery, threats, incitement to racism, conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of racist material. Another member of the gang, a minor, was also convicted under the plea bargain; he will be sentenced to a prison term of up to two and half years.

Altogether, eight members of Buniatov's gang were indicted for having attacked foreign workers, homeless people and Orthodox Jews while shouting neo-Nazi slogans. The gang also documented their attacks on video.

In one incident, for instance, the gang attacked a drug addict near Tel Aviv's Carmel Market and forced him to go down on his knees and beg pardon for being a Jew. They then posted a video of the incident on YouTube and the neo-Nazi Web site Format 18.

After the verdict was read out in the Tel Aviv District Court, Buniatov's lawyer, Shimshon Weiss, told reporters: "He is very sorry for what happened."

Weiss argued that Buniatov had had a difficult life, having immigrated to Israel at age 9 and later dropped out of school. "He was an alien plant in Israel," Weiss said. "He was searching for an identity, and it was easy for him to connect to an ideology that empowered him - a difficult and disgraceful ideology that none of us can identify with."

Buniatov was considered the leader of the gang, and the one who urged the others to adopt a neo-Nazi ideology and engage in violence.

The indictment detailed e-mails in which he boasted to other gang members of having carried out an aktion against Arabs (aktion is the word used by the Nazis for anti-Jewish pogroms); of holding a ceremony on Hitler's birthday in which he swore allegiance to the Nazi leader; and of his success in obtaining a Russian translation of Hitler's book Mein Kampf. In one e-mail, he said, "The Fuehrer was right about the Jews, but they finished him off."

Four other members of the gang were convicted in a separate plea bargain about a month ago; that deal called for them to receive sentences ranging from 15 months to four and a half years. The remaining two defendants are currently in advanced negotiations to conclude their own plea bargains with the prosecution.

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