The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office on Sunday filed an indictment with the Jerusalem District Court against a Border Police officer for manslaughter in the highly controversial and videotaped killing of a Palestinian minor in Beitunya in May.
The indictment revolved around the fatal shooting of Nadim Nuwara, 17, on Nakba Day, when Palestinians mourn the establishment of the State of Israel. Nuwara was killed when scores of Palestinians attacked soldiers with stones at a protest near the Ofer Prison, located between Ramallah and the Givat Ze’ev settlement.
The manslaughter charge is one of the most serious in recent memory against a soldier or border policeman for the killing of a Palestinian while acting in the line of duty, and could lead to serious jail time.
Typically, incidents of killing Palestinians end with no charge, justified by self-defense, or at most result in disciplinary actions for violating rules of engagement or a negligent homicide charge with little or no jail time.
In a Wednesday pretrial hearing, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court had already permitted publication of several key details of the investigation against the border policeman, though his name was still under gag order even after the filing of the indictment.
The indictment said that the policeman had received permission to fire rubber bullets to disperse confrontational crowds throwing rocks.
The policeman had two magazines, one with rubber bullets and one with live ammunition, the rubber bullet magazine being clearly demarcated by its red color, according to the indictment.
At some point during the altercation, the policeman switched some live bullets into his rubber bullet magazine to be able to fire live ammunition and to hide his violation of the rules of engagement from the other soldiers, the indictment alleged.
Some of the other details included that the blood of one Palestinian minor was found on a live-fire bullet retrieved from the deceased minor’s body and that expert reports have connected the bullet with the border policeman’s gun.
Other pieces of evidence appeared to include wiretapping of the policeman’s communications and some other persons involved in the incident.
Despite the evidence, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court expressed doubt about finding sufficient evidence for specific intent to kill and a murder charge, implying that a manslaughter charge would have a strong and much better chance of being accepted – a recommendation the state ultimately accepted.
The policeman was not indicted for the killing of a separate Palestinian that day.
The policeman had appeared in court on November 12, a day after he was arrested in connection to the killing of Nuwara. It had already been surmised that the charge would revolve around whether the officer used live ammunition and not rubber bullets in violation of the rules of engagement for using deadly force.
Palestinians and Israeli left-wing activists said that Nuwara and an additional teenager killed on that day, Muhammad Abu Daher, were shot with live ammunition, which soldiers are supposed to use only when their lives are in danger.
Palestinians said in June that an autopsy concluded that Nuwara had been killed by live fire. Palestinian, US and Danish pathologists were reportedly present at the autopsy in the Palestinian Institute of Forensic Medicine in the West Bank town of Abu Dis.
Video from security cameras on Palestinian properties close to the scene of the May protest showed the two teenagers falling to the ground in separate incidents.
At the time, right-wing activists claimed the scene was staged and deemed it “Pallywood.”
Palestinians have claimed that the footage proves that the teenagers were shot despite posing no immediate threat to Israeli forces.
The IDF denied the allegation and insisted that only rubber bullets were used. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had suggested the surveillance video might have been doctored, an allegation the human-rights groups that distributed the material have denied.
At the time, an IDF source said 150 Palestinians who had gathered to mark Nakba Day threw firebombs and rocks at soldiers and border policemen and rolled burning tires at them.
“The rioting was very serious,” an army source said after the incident. “This was a very aggressive attack on security personnel.
We are examining the incident.”
Ben Hartman, Khaled Abu Toameh, Yaakov Lappin and Reuters contributed to this report