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Israeli-American bomb hoax suspect convicted

American-Israeli Jewish teenager (C), accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in US and elsewhere, leaves the Israeli Justice court in Rishon Lezion
JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

The 19-year old man Israeli-American from Ashkelon arrested last year as the primary suspect in an investigation into thousands of bomb threats against Jewish centers, airlines, and various public institutions carried out over a period of two to three years has been convicted by the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court in Israel. The US Justice Department has identified him as Michael Kadar. 

The suspect was arrested in Israel March 2017 after a joint effort between Israeli police cyber-security investigators and the FBI discovered Kadar carried out a series of hoax threats from his family home in southern Israel. He holds dual Israeli and American citizenship. 

Kadar made the threats by phone and via written messages, using technology to distort his voice and hide his identity.

His lawyers argued he was not responsible for his actions as he has a brain tumor and is on the autism spectrum. 

But Justice Zvi Gurfinkel rejected that claim, based on the testimony of three psychiatrists who said he was criminally accountable for his actions and fit to stand trial.

Since there was no dispute over whether the defendant committed the crimes, Gurfinkel convicted him "of all the crimes attributed to him in the indictment, committed from when he was 18 years old" in August 2016, the ruling read.

As for felonies prior to that date, Gurfinkel said he would request an evaluation prior to the defendant being tried for crimes allegedly committed as a minor.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

His arrest followed a wave of bomb threats and anti-Semitics incidents aimed at American Jewish institutions since the start of that year that spread fears over a potential rise in anti-Semitic action toward Jews.

It is not known what percentage of the threats Kadar may have been involved with.

Israeli court charged him with attempted extortion as well as money-laundering, reporting false information causing public panic, and conspiring to commit a crime and hacking.

The prosecutors' original indictment accused the man, whose identity remained under gag order until recently, of placing some 2,000 threatening calls to mainly Jewish institutions in the US and internationally, Israel's Justice Ministry statement said.

"In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to be blown off," one of the threats read, according to a recording obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

JACK GUEZ (AFP/File)

Israel's Haaretz newspaper said Friday the net started to tighten after a threat in New Zealand in 2016 when police found the threat came from an Israeli IP address.

Using an antenna, the suspect allegedly accessed other people's computers to commit the crimes, the newspaper said, leading police to question a number of innocent suspects before eventually netting him.

Kadar's conviction might assuage fears of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and around the world, knowing that the bomb threats were a hoax and people were not in immediate danger as they originally feared.

However, US Jewish organizations tried to downplay the political fallout, saying the arrest did not end legitimate fears.

"No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers," the Anti-Defamation League's CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

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The fact that a young Jewish man incited widespread fear among Jews appeared to vindicate white nationalists and far-right conspiracy theorists, who have long claimed that such threats are part of a Jewish plot.

"The outcome of this young man’s actions is that the classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory will be given a tailwind -- the Jews portray themselves as victims but are orchestrating the supposed attacks," an article in Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper said.

In response to the wave of anti-Semitic threats and hate crimes, President Donald Trump suggested that many of them could be hoaxes specifically designed to make him look bad, the Huffington Post reported. This was before the man from Ashkelon was found, and Jewish Americans were outraged by what they perceived to be a slow and inadequate response to threats.

When it turned out that many of the threats were indeed hoaxes, Jewish organizations and Israeli media said the arrest was likely to boost conspiracy theories, while others worried it would weaken responses to a rise in anti-Semitism attacks in the United States.

A representative of a major global Jewish organisation, who did not want to be named, told AFP that Trump's false flag claim would gain traction.

"Those sort of statements that everyone thought were totally outlandish at the time now sound somewhat more reasonable."

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