Prosecutor downgrades charge against soldier who shot dead wounded Palestinian to manslaughter from murder.
An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian as he lay on the ground was released to “open detention” at a military base on Friday while judges decide whether to charge him with manslaughter.
The soldier had been incarcerated since last week when he was caught on video calmly walking up to the incapacitated Palestinian man – Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif – and shooting him in the head at point-blank range.
The United Nations said this week that video of the incident showed all the signs of an extrajudicial killing.
The Israeli soldier, who has not been identified for legal reasons, will have his next hearing on Tuesday. He has been ordered not to leave the military base and is not permitted to carry weapons.
Fattah, 21, and another Palestinian man – who was earlier shot and killed – were accused of stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron.
After the initial shooting of the attackers, the soldier told the military court that Fattah tried to reach for a knife while on his back, and he believed the wounded man had an explosives belt that he was trying to detonate.
Israeli media website YNET News, which had a reporter at Friday’s military court session, quoted the Israeli military prosecutor Zagagi Pinhas as saying “the video presents a different situation”.
“The videos and testimony from the incident indicate that the neutralised terrorist posed no threat,” Pinhas said.
“However many movements the terrorist made, none of the other people at the scene – including the commanders standing next to the terrorist – were not alarmed by it – and this speaks volumes.”
The prosecutor also noted the soldier’s comments after the killing indicated a revenge motive. “The soldier told his friends immediately after the incident: ‘My friend was stabbed and he deserves to die.'”
Pinhas said there were questions surrounding the accused’s testimony.
“The soldier’s changing version raises serious doubts about the credibility of the defence’s claims, to put it mildly,” he was quoted as saying.
On Wednesday, Christof Heyns, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said: “Whatever legal regime one applies to the case, shooting someone who is no longer a threat is murder.”
On Thursday, the military judge, Lieutenant Colonel Ronen Shor, said a manslaughter charge against the soldier would be reviewed, instead of a murder charge as was originally sought. Under Israeli law, manslaughter signifies an intentional but not premeditated killing.
Shor said on Tuesday that evidence was “inconclusive” and there was “reasonable doubt” about the circumstances of the shooting “given the complexity of the events”.
Palestinian activists in Hebron have demanded that Israel holds its army accountable for Fattah’s killing.
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