Fury as court frees settler who killed Palestinian boy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A Jewish settler walked free from court yesterday after being sentenced to a mere six months' community service and a $17,000 fine for beating to death an 11-year-old Palestinian boy.

A Jewish settler walked free from court yesterday after being sentenced to a mere six months' community service and a $17,000 fine for beating to death an 11-year-old Palestinian boy.

The astonishingly light sentence was greeted with fury by human rights activists, Palestinian organisations and Israeli left wingers, who said it was further proof of racism and glaring double standards within the Israeli judicial system.

The case comes at a difficult time for Israel, which is under fire for sweeping human rights abuses during the four-month intifada, but where there is also rising public anger over Palestinian violence - most recently, the killing of a 16-year-old Israeli boy lured to his death by a Palestinian woman he met on the internet.

It has added weight to complaints by civil rights activists that Israeli soldiers and settlers are treated leniently for crimes against Palestinians, while Arabs accused of harming Israelis receive severe treatment. Large numbers are held in jail for long spells - in some cases without charge or for minor public-order offences.

The ruling was the latest stage in a case that gained notoriety in 1999 when a Jerusalem District Court judge - the same one who issued yesterday's sentence - acquitted the settler. Her verdict was overturned last year by the Supreme Court, who found him guilty of second-degree manslaughter and sent the case back to the lower court for sentencing.

It began in October 1996 when Nahum Korman, a security officer from Hadar Beitar, a Jewish settlement built in contravention of international law on land near Bethlehem, chased a group of Palestinian boys whom he believed had been throwing stones at Israeli cars.

Among them was Hilmi Shousheh, 11. According to two eye-witnesses - the boy's cousins - Korman caught hold of Hilmi, kicked and pistol-whipped him and stomped on his neck as he lay on the ground. Within 24 hours, Hilmi had died in hospital of head wounds and a broken spine.

Korman's light sentence - which included a suspended 15-month prison term - was greeted with horror by the boy's father, who accused the court of issuing "a licence to kill".

Palestinian representatives and human rights activists on both sides were seething last night. "I can't believe this," said Hanan Ashrawi, a leading spokeswoman. "This is a deliberate distortion of a legal system and moral values."

Naomi Chazan, of Israel's left-wing Meretz party, said it "shows how little respect is shown for Palestinian life".

The sentence was handed down as Israel and the Palestinians were preparing for marathon talks in Egypt due to open last night. Ehud Barak, the Israeli Prime Minister, told Army Radio that the chances of bridging the gaps before the 6 February elections in Israel was "not great".

Also on the eve of the talks, a 15-year old Palestinian stone-thrower was shot dead by Israeli troops in the Gaza strip.

Comments