Ami Popper

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Ami Popper
Born 1969 (1969)
Criminal penalty 7 lifetimes, later commuted to 40 years
Criminal status prisoner
Spouse(s) Sarah Popper (deceased)[1]
Conviction(s) 7 counts of murder

Ami Popper (Hebrew: עמי פופר‎; born 1969) is an Israeli convicted of murdering 7 Palestinians.


On May 20, 1990, Popper, a dishonorably-discharged soldier, put on Israel Defense Forces uniform trousers, stolen from his brother, an active duty soldier.[2] He also stole his brother's assault rifle and five ammunition clips.[3] He then spotted a group of Arab workers at a bus stop in the city of Rishon Lezion, waiting to be picked up for laboring jobs in Israel. Suspecting they were Arab, he demanded to see their identity cards. After confirming they were Arabs he lined them up and opened fire, killing seven and wounding 11 others.[4][5] Within an hour, he was arrested.

After his act, Palestinians rioted, and Israeli security forces killed seven rioters and injured about 700 more. Yitzhak Shamir dismissed his act as of no political significance since Popper was "deranged". The court found him sane and fit to stand trial.[6]

Popper first told police that his attacks were a reaction to the First Intifada, later claiming to have been distraught because his girlfriend had decided to leave him. He also stated that he had been raped by an Arab when he was 13 and had committed these killings out of shame and a desire for revenge.[7] Two days later rabbi Meir Kahane held a celebration of his deed in Rishon LeZion.[8]

Imprisonment and aftermath[edit]

Popper was charged and convicted of seven acts of murder in March 1991, and he was sentenced to seven terms of life imprisonment. In prison he became religious and in June 1993 he married a Canadian-Jewish woman from a family of Kach activists. Popper and his wife were granted conjugal visits, and they had three children. In 1999, his sentence was reduced to 40 years imprisonment.[9]

On 17 January 2007, while on a 48-hour furlough from prison, Popper was involved in a car accident he caused by crossing a solid line, hitting oncoming traffic. His wife and one of his sons were killed in the accident. Popper himself was moderately injured. Police reported that Popper's driver's license had expired in 1999,[1] and that he was driving illegally without a license. Initial reports indicate Popper's children were not wearing seatbelts in the backseat.

Popper was initially imprisoned in Maasiyahu Prison, and was placed in the Torani cellblock, a special cellblock for religious inmates. Prisoners there pray three times a day and spend most of the day studying the Torah and other sacred texts.

At one point, his cellmate was former minister Shlomo Benizri. After Benizri's release, Popper's influence in the Torani bloc grew, and he began harassing former President Moshe Katsav, serving a seven-year sentence for rape and other sexual offenses, after Katsav's request for a pardon was denied. According to the Israel Prison Service, Popper had verbally abused Katsav and sent other inmates to harass him. In October 2012, Popper was transferred to the maximum-security Ayalon Prison.[10][11]

Right wing and Orthodox politicians in Israel have demanded his release along with other Israeli prisoners who were convicted of murder or other violence committed against Palestinians, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners who committed murder or violence against Israelis.

Popper later remarried and then divorced. In May 2013, he married his third wife, a woman known only as "M" who had previously gained headlines by allegedly allowing her children to be abused. The couple was married in a small ceremony in Jerusalem, after Popper was granted a prison furlough.[12]

Popper's family has been the recipient of financial support from the Israeli NGO Honemu, and indirectly from tax deductible U.S. donations, according to journalist Uri Blau.[13]


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