Israeli officer cleared in shooting

An Israeli military judge has cleared an officer of misusing his weapon in the shooting death of a British cameraman in the Gaza Strip almost two years ago.

    James Miller was killed while filming a documentary in Gaza

    James Miller, 34, was shot dead on 3 May 2003, in the refugee camp of Rafah while making a documentary, Death in Gaza, about the effect of Israeli repression on Palestinian children.

    Witnesses said Israeli occupation forces shot him at close range, although he wore journalist insignia and waved a white flag. The documentary shows Miller approaching an armoured vehicle in the dark before the fatal shots sounded.

    A military judge conducting a disciplinary hearing acquitted the officer, identified only as "Lieutenant H", of "misusing his firearm", a military official said on Thursday, but he offered no further details or explanation.


    The Israeli army's Judge Advocate-General Avichai Mandelblith decided in early March not to file criminal charges against the officer because of "lack of evidence", drawing accusations of a cover-up from Miller's relatives, who vowed to sue the army.

    Lesser charges


    Mandelblith said at the time that while the officer was alleged to have fired in violation of army rules, "it is not legally possible to link this shooting to the gun shot sustained by Mr Miller (to) provide a reasonable chance of conviction".


    Mandelblith instead tried the soldier in a disciplinary hearing on lesser charges of "inappropriate use of weapons" for opening fire on a group of civilians who posed no danger to him.


    Miller was filming the conflict's

    effects on Palestinian children

    Hours after Miller's death, a senior Israeli commander said troops in Rafah had opened fire after coming under attack by Palestinian armed men who were smuggling arms from Egypt.

    "Two of our armoured vehicles went in to uncover a smuggling tunnel ... and as darkness fell came under small-arms fire. Two rocket-propelled grenades were also fired at them. The men shot back at the attackers," Colonel Avi, then the acting commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, told Reuters.

    But the footage in Death in Gaza shows no sign of a clash.


    Soldier acquitted


    A few months ago, the Israeli army acquitted another soldier who last year killed a nine-year-old Palestinian schoolgirl, also in Rafah, and then shot her 20 times to make sure that she was dead.


    The soldier, who came to be known as "Captain R," was charged with the "inappropriate use of army-issued weapon".


    The charge is considered less serious and largely inconsequential.


    "Two rocket-propelled grenades were also fired at them. The men shot back at the attackers"

    Colonel Avi,
    ex-acting commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip

    British authorities have backed the Miller family's demand for an independent investigation. The family said last month that it would sue the army for compensation through Israeli civil courts.


    A spokesman for the British embassy in Tel Aviv said the UK government would pursue the matter with the Israeli government.


    "We would like to see justice for James Miller," Nil Wigand, a press attaché at the embassy, said.


    Asked if he thought Miller's killer would ever be punished, Wigand said, "I hope so."


    The Israeli army declined to comment on the acquittals.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies



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