Palestinian autopsy observer: Shooting by soldier suspected of manslaughter was killing shot

The pathologists have allegedly concluded that the gunfire which neutralized Abdel Fattah al-Sharif would not have resulted in his death; IDF does not announce official autopsy results.

April 3, 2016 16:28
4 minute read.
idf soldier court

IDF sodlier who shot a neutralized Palestinian terrorist in Hebron in court, March 29, 2016. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)

The Palestinian observer at the autopsy of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, the Palestinian stabber shot in Hebron recently after he was already “neutralized,” said the accused soldier’s late shot was the fatal one.

If the official results of Sunday’s autopsy agree with the observer’s opinion, the determination would significantly enhance the IDF prosecution’s case against the soldier, likely for manslaughter, whose shooting of Sharif on March 24 was captured on video and went viral nationally and globally. Some reports indicated the indictment could be filed within two weeks.

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Though the IDF refused to publicly confirm the determination or comment on the autopsy pending completion of the criminal investigation, and the IDF examiner was the official performer of the autopsy, there were several confirmations of the finding from military and medical sources who asked to remain anonymous.

If the autopsy determination turns out to be the opposite and reveals that the original first shooting of the terrorist – unquestionably by soldiers in self-defense – caused a fatal wound, then the prosecution’s chances of proving manslaughter would be much slimmer.

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh responded to the autopsy saying, “One didn’t require a pathology determination to observe the execution-style killing and the total indifference of all those present at the scene. When the prime minister calls the murderer’s relatives to console them, the bias of the trial is a foregone conclusion. The days since the shooting have only provided further evidence of the necessity for immediate international intervention to investigate the crimes of the occupation.”

In contrast, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said the fact that two level of military courts have either rejected the IDF prosecution’s evidence or have not been immediately convinced by it, indicates that “the evidentiary basis for the case is very weak.”

Liberman also said that the video of the event that went viral, which B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories took and originally distributed, was “heavily edited.”

The IDF Appeals Court on Friday ordered a temporary partial release of the soldier.

The conditions of the partial release were that he be held in detention on an army base within his unit until Tuesday’s hearing, when the Appeals Court would make a final ruling on whether to release him or keep him in pre-indictment detention.

Chief IDF Prosecutor Col.

Sharon Zigigi made an unusual personal appearance to argue before the Military Appeals Court deputy president, Brig.-Gen. Doron Filis.

Zigigi’s personal appearance was a striking show of the importance the prosecution places on the case.

It is almost unheard of for the chief prosecutor to personally appear in court, as his role is usually to make decisions behind the scenes.

Zigigi and the head of the IDF’s Operational Prosecutions Unit, Lt.-Col. Edoram Rigler, focused their arguments on convincing Filis that the evidence was more one-sided and that the soldier was more dangerous than lower court judge Lt.-Col.

Ronen Shor had ruled.

On Thursday, Shor ruled that the evidence was mixed, leading to his ordering the soldier released.

The IDF prosecution appealed, resulting in the hearing on Friday, and the follow-up session set for Tuesday.

The prosecution said details used to present the evidence as having two sides were misunderstood and misleading.

To debunk the idea that the fact that the Palestinian was wearing a coat was suspicious, indicating that he might be concealing an explosive vest, they noted that the temperature at 8 a.m. in Hebron was cold and that many of the security personnel in the area were also wearing coats.

The prosecution criticized the suspect for refusing to cooperate with reenacting the scene and with engaging in confrontations with soldiers in his unit who said his self-defense claim was false, that they would have stopped him from shooting the Palestinian if they had known his intent and that his motivation for shooting was revenge.

Defense lawyer Ilan Katz slammed the prosecution as having backed off its argument that the suspect might obstruct the investigation.

He said that all the other arguments were factual and not new legal arguments and should not be raised on an appeal. He added that the soldier was not cooperating with specific issues because Katz viewed those investigative acts as traps using false information to confuse the soldier.

Sunday’s autopsy followed a compromise ordered by the High Court of Justice in which the Palestinian representative could ask for certain additional autopsy actions and a record of disagreements would be kept. However, the IDF representative has the final say.

On Thursday, the IDF Prosecution dropped the expected charge from murder to manslaughter, but manslaughter still carries heavy jail time.

Meanwhile, numerous human rights organizations said this past week that France should bring forth war crime charges against the accused soldier if the Israeli judicial system fails to convict him.

Foreign media sources revealed that the soldier in question is a dual Israeli-French citizen and is therefore subject to the legal clause of universal jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the issue has gone largely unreported in the Israeli press due to a gag order on the soldier’s identity.

Noam Amir/Maariv and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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