Palestinian's killers fined one tiny coin

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The Independent Online
Four Israeli soldiers belonging to an undercover unit called the Cherry Unit yesterday paid the price for shooting dead an 18-year-old Palestinian man, whom nobody accuses of doing anything wrong. After finding them guilty, a military court fined the soldiers one agora, the smallest Israeli coin, which is worth just a third of one penny. Even the one agora fine was a reduction of the sentence originally agreed by the prosecution and defence of one hour in jail, suspended for 24 hours.

The dead man, Iyad Mahmoud Awad Badran, was killed three years ago when the car he was travelling in approached a civilian vehicle used by the Cherry Unit parked near the village of Salfit on the West Bank.

It was dark and the driver, Bilal Amli, says he heard nobody tell him to stop until a spotlight was aimed at him and "we were being shot at with heavy fire. I suddenly saw blood on Iyad's face and I understood that he was injured." A few moments later he heard someone say in Hebrew, "We're soldiers."

After being forced to lie on the ground for 90 minutes, Mr Amli and another passenger who survived, were driven to a hotel in the nearby settlement of Ariel and later released.

The Israeli version of what happened, given at the time by the Israeli officer investigating the incident, is very similar. The only difference in the officer's story is that the car tried to reverse away from the soldiers. He says: "The soldiers fired at it and the front tyres of the car were hit, but it seems that a few bullets strayed from their path and hit the front windshield of the car."

The decision of the military court to fine the undercover soldiers such a derisory sum after finding them guilty of causing the death of Mr Badran through negligence is likely to infuriate Palestinians. Bassam Eid, one of the most respected Palestinian human rights activists, yesterday called on the Israeli Government to appeal against "the light sentence given to the four soldiers."

A spokesman for the Israeli army said last night that the military prosecutor would appeal against the verdict. In an apologetic statement the army said that Palestinian witnesses to the shootings had not come to the trial from the West Bank. In addition the prosecution had plea-bargained because "procedures had taken longer than expected" and this had increased the stress on the four soldiers. As a result it had accepted the "symbolic punishment" of one hour's imprisonment suspended for 24 hours.

Earlier the Israeli High Court had approved the interrogation methods, denounced by some human rights organisations as torture, used on a Palestinian suspect named Khader Mubarak. The Israeli Shin Bet security agency described him as a "very senior activist inHamas's military wing in the Hebron region."

Another Palestinian, Mohammed Abdel-Aziz Hamdan, who, according to his lawyer, is only being allowed to sleep for two hours every three days had his interrogation approved by the High Court last week.

Although Mohammed Hamdan has been described by Israeli security as "a ticking bomb" because of information he is alleged to possess about impending bomb attacks, Elia Theodory, one of his lawyers, says that his knowledge is unlikely to be fresh since he has been in an Israeli jail since 7 October. Most of the time he has had a dirty sack over his head. Hamdan told his lawyer that the Shin Bet had not, in fact, interrogated him much "about military action which is going to happen".