A Gaza military court on Tuesday accepted an appeal by two militants convicted last year of kidnapping and murdering an Italian national, reducing their sentences from life to 15 years.

"The high military court has accepted the appeal presented by [Mahmud] al-Salfiti and [Tamer] al-Husasna to reduce their sentence from hard labour and life, to 15 years," said the judge in a brief hearing.

The two men, both former police officers, were convicted in September 2012 for the kidnap and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni and sentenced to life in prison. They filed an appeal asking for the murder conviction to be dropped.

"We asked in our appeal for the conviction for murder and abduction to be dropped to only abduction," their lawyer Mohammed Zaqut told AFP.

"The sentence should have been lighter than this; it should have been ten years only, but we accepted 15," Zaqut said, indicating that he would seek ways of further reducing the sentence.

It was not immediately clear whether the court had agreed to drop the murder charge as requested in the appeal.

'Fair and legitimate'

There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, whose lawyers had represented the Arrigoni family at the trial and which had welcomed the original sentence as "fair and legitimate."

At the time, the family had made a special request not to impose the death penalty.

Arrigoni, 36, a long-time member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, was kidnapped on April 14, 2011 by a previously-unknown salafi group, which threatened to kill him unless Gaza's Hamas leadership freed several of their fellow militants.

But he was found hanged in an abandoned house in northern Gaza shortly after the video was posted.

Two other men were also convicted of involvement in the case, with Khadr Faruk Jerim, also a former policeman, receiving 10 years for kidnapping, while Amer Abu Ghola was jailed for a year for providing the house in which Arrigoni was found hanged.

Arrigoni's death shocked Gaza and the community of international aid workers in the territory where he had lived and worked for around three years leading up to his death. It was the first time a foreign national had been murdered since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Source: AFP