The IDF Military Court in Kastina on Tuesday only granted a two-day extension of detention to an IDF soldier suspected of murdering a Palestinian terrorist, rejecting prosecution request for nine days.
The soldier's defense lawyers declared the move a sign that Lt.-Col. Judge Ronen Shor does not view the evidence in the case as obviously one-sided. On the other hand, the ruling could just indicate that Shor believes the prosecution does not need further time to investigate the incident that occurred on Thursday in Hebron and has plenty of evidence already against the soldier.
Earlier on Tuesday, IDF Prosecutor Lt. Col. Edoram Rigler said that there was no military need for the Hebron shooter, suspected of murder, to kill the Palestinian in an unusual hearing in Kastina near Ashdod.
The prosecution asked for nine additional days of pre-indictment detention to continue its investigation, though it could ask to continue to detain him longer once it files an indictment.
A media circus has surrounded the incident with details leaked from both sides of the investigation day after day to alternately confirm a narrative in which the killing was a cold-blooded murder or a less serious negligent homicide with elements of self-defense from danger posed by the Palestinian who had been involved in a terror attack before being shot and immobilized by security forces.
The Palestinian and an accomplice had attacked another soldier with knives, and then was wounded. He is seen on a video, which immediately went viral, lying on the ground motionless for an extended period until the accused soldier, who arrived after the attack, suddenly, and seemingly without cause, shoots the Palestinian dead, causing blood to pour out of his head. Originally, the case was to be heard in the Jaffa Military Court, but it was moved to Kastina to try to reduce the media coverage and number of protesters.
The picture appeared grim for the soldier on Tuesday as the prosecution deemed the shooting a "grave offense," terminology usually reserved for murder or manslaughter and not mere negligent homicide - a mistaken killing violating the rules of engagement, but without murderous intent.
The prosecutor said investigations carried out until now raise doubts about the suspect's account of events, and his claim that soldiers' lives were in danger are in doubt. Doubts exist due to the soldier's conduct during the incident, his statements, and motives, all cast doubt on his claim to acting in self defense.
Reports have surfaced that the soldier was not an early responder and that by the time he arrived to the scene, the Palestinian had already been checked for the possibility of having explosives attached to himself, and that this had been ruled out.
The same reports indicate that the shooter told other IDF personnel before and after that the Palestinian should be killed in light of his being a terrorist and other issues not related to self-defense.
The prosecutor noted that even the shooter himself did not act with any immediacy or desperation when he shot the Palestinian that indicated he felt in danger.
On the soldier's side, his lawyer has argued that the autopsy of the Palestinian could be a boon for his client’s defense.
Defense lawyer Ilan Katz argued that the autopsy of the terrorist could save the soldier from both murder and manslaughter charges if it shows that he was already fatally wounded and would have died from his earlier wounds.
In that case, he might only face charges for negligent homicide or for violating the rules of engagement.
Conversely, if the autopsy shows that the Palestinian was not already fatally wounded, Katz will argue that he was not as badly hurt as the video seems to imply, and that the additional shooting was necessary to neutralize him as a threat.
The prosecution is expected to oppose these arguments, arguing that the Palestinian was alive when shot and that the soldier had murderous intent regardless of the extent of his prior wounds.
Whatever happens with the autopsy, the movement of Katz to this line of argument from the original self-defense argument could indicate that the soldier and his lawyers have realized a self-defense assertion may not hold up in court.
Yet another support reported for the self-defense idea is a Magen David Adom report that there were suspicions of an explosive vest being used in the area. But it is unclear if this report will only help MDA explain why it did not attend to the Palestinian, or will also help the shooter.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.