72,000 back Azzam’s family in stand against knife crime

by Sylvia Pownall

More than 72,000 people have backed a petition started by the family of teenager Azzam Raguragui who was stabbed to death in a Dublin park last year.

The 18-year-old’s parents, Hajiba and Abdul, set up the online campaign following the “heinous crime” on their boy who was killed in a row in Finsbury Park, Dundrum.

By Tuesday of this week 71,121 people had signed it – calling for tougher sentences for knife crime as a deterrant to young people arming themselves with blades.

Azzam’s 17-year-old attacker, who cannot be named as he is a minor, was this week sentenced to seven and a half years for his manslaughter on May 10, 2019.

His victim died after he was stabbed five times in a melee – a row over a stolen bicycle which quickly escalated into violence.

The trial heard that one of the wounds severed an artery and caused massive blood loss which led to Azzam’s death.

Abdul said that he can’t get the image out of his head of the killer on CCTV celebrating and “high-fiving” with friends after the fatal attack.

“In addition to losing my son in a heinous crime, I also lost myself, my wife and two kids as we have never been the same,” he added. He described his son as “handsome, athletic, funny and honest”.

“The first thing everyone would notice about Azzam was his smile. I never remember him without that smile, he was the light of the house. The brightness in every room. But suddenly that brightness is now gone.”

The defendant was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter by a jury in September. He had previously offered to plead guilty to manslaughter but the Director of Public Prosecutions rejected the plea.

Mr Justice McDermott said the jury’s verdict means the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused inflicted the fatal wound after Mr Raguragui fell to the ground having tried to run away from the fight.

However, the judge said that the accused brought the knife, which he saw as an “aggravating factor”.

He said: “A further aggravating factor was his failure to seek assistance, although he knew he had repeatedly stabbed and wounded Azzam. He showed a “callous disregard to the predicament of the deceased at the time.”

He also noted that the defendant pursued Azzam having already inflicted the fatal wound, and assaulted him in a “cowardly” way while he lay in the foetal position.

Azzam’s father said afterwards: “We feel as though we lost the case since they changed it from murder to manslaughter. By this light sentence, they are encouraging young generations to kill each other.”

To sign the petition, visit the link here.

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