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(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
A British filmmaker fatally shot in Gaza by an Israeli soldier was murdered, a coroner's jury decided Thursday.
James Miller, 34, was shot in the neck by a soldier in the Gaza-Egypt border area of Rafah in May 2003 while filming a documentary about the impact of violence on children in the region.
The coroner, Andrew Reid, told the 10-member inquest jury at King's Cross Coroner's Court that an unlawful killing verdict was the only one they could reach.
"Based on the evidence laid before us, we the jury unanimously agree it was unlawful shooting, with the intention to kill Mr. James Miller. We can come to no other conclusion than that Mr. Miller was indeed murdered," the jury concluded.
"It's a fact that from day one to this inquest the Israeli authorities have not been forthcoming in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Miller's death."
The IDF said it did not plan on reopening the case unless it was presented with new evidence it did not have before.
"The Military Police investigated the case and the officer behind the shooting was found innocent," a military source said.
The Philadelphi Route in Rafah - the site of Miller's death - was a known battle zone between IDF troops and Palestinian terrorists.
Following the verdict, Foreign Office Minister Dr. Kim Howells commented 'The verdict of unlawful killing does not come as a surprise to me. The British Government has consistently pressed the Israelis at all levels to carry out a thorough and transparent investigation into James' killing. We are disappointed that the Military Police investigation did not recommend an indictment and that no one has been held to account for James' death.
'We continue to support the family's request for compensation.'
Miller's widow, Sophy, wept as the verdict was read.
Reid had told the jury that Miller had either been murdered or was the victim of manslaughter, but that the law drew no distinction.
"The evidence is that there was only intentional firing in this matter but ... it is a matter for you that although the firing was intentional, it might have had an unintended consequence in killing Mr. Miller," Reid said. "But in law that still amounts to unlawful killing."
The hearing had lasted three days and heard testimony from Miller's widow, members of the film crew that were with him in Gaza and British police who investigated his death.
"Israel has been uncooperative with the Metropolitan Police in that they haven't allowed us access to interview soldiers and witnesses," Detective Inspector Robert Anderson testified Thursday.
Instead, Metropolitan Police had to rely on evidence from previous IDF interviews, and reports from the pathologist and ballistic experts, Anderson said.
Anderson said there was no evidence Miller, a father of two, posed a threat to the IDF at the time of the shooting, or that there had been any Palestinian fire directed at the soldiers' position.
He said there was no rational explanation that could prevent a conclusion being drawn that the fatal shot came anywhere other than from the IDF position.
An IDF officer who was commanding the unit at the time of the shooting was cleared by a court martial last year of charges of illegally using his weapon.
While military prosecutors could not prove that the officer killed Miller, they said he fired in contravention of standing rules of engagement.
Miller's widow and the British government have protested the acquittal.
"James was shot by someone who was deliberately murdering him, not by someone of a national army which was upholding the law of a national state," Sophy Miller said outside the court.
"If there is no punishment, it fosters a climate of impunity and more people are killed."
The dead man's father, Col. Geoffrey Miller, said the verdict was "an epic milestone, but it doesn't bring closure.
"We still want to see justice and the Israelis must be held to account," he said.
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