Muhammad al-Dura 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
French TV station France 2 won a libel case in Paris Thursday over accusations it faked a report into the killing of 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000.
The Court of First Instance convicted Philippe Karsenty of libeling France 2 television and its Israel correspondent, Charles Enderlin, and ordered Karsenty to pay a â‚¬1,000 fine, and â‚¬3,000 in legal fees and a symbolic â‚¬1 in damages to both Enderlin and the broadcaster.
Karsenty, director of the French Web site Media Ratings, accused Enderlin of using staged footage in his report showing Dura and his father caught in the middle of a firefight on September 30, 2000.
"It is a very somber day for France. The French justice system has validated a false report," Karsenty told reporters after the decision. "We are going to appeal straight away. It is a very surprising judgment."
The footage was widely seen worldwide. Karsenty believes it was faked in an effort to damage Israel's reputation, with Enderlin's active participation.
The France 2 report accused IDF troops of shooting the boy as he took cover with his father during a gun battle with Palestinians.
The IDF initially apologized for the boy's death but later held an investigation that concluded that Dura had probably been killed by Palestinians.
Two senior French journalists given access to the footage as part of an investigation into the affair later said that the film did not show that Israeli troops had killed the boy or even that he had died at all, Reuters reported. But they also said there was no evidence to suggest deliberate staging or manipulation.
"You are allowed to say everything you want, even that the young Muhammad was killed by Martians. But insults and personal accusations are unacceptable," Enderlin told The Jerusalem Post after he learned of the ruling. "I had trust in French justice but I am relieved, because the prosecutor didn't recommended a conviction."
Indeed, it is rare for the court to hand down a judgement more severe than that recommended by the public prosecutor. The prosecutor had recommended that the court rule in Karsenty's favor, arguing that he had conducted a thorough investigation of the France 2 report and had presented substantial evidence to support his case.
His hopes raised by this favorable recommendation, Karsenty was bitterly disappointed by Thursday's verdict. "If this judgement is upheld, Jews should ask themselves questions about their future in France," he told the Post's French edition by phone yesterday afternoon. "Justice covers the anti-Semitic lies of a public channel. It's a strong signal, it is very severe."
Karsenty promised he would soon publish "proof of manipulation that will make fools of the judges" on his Web site.
Two other libel trials brought by France 2 against Web sites will take place in the coming days. Enderlin said he was confident he would be vindicated.
"From the beginning of the affair, we have never once been contacted by Israeli authorities. The legal department of France 2 said it was ready to cooperate with an investigation but no request has ever been sent. In this case, we only did our job as journalists," he said.
Karsenty said that Israel had never supported him or the other critics of the French 2 correspondent. "Israeli politicians are too busy with their corruption affairs and their ethics cases to even consider protecting the reputation of Israel," he said bitterly.
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