An Israeli border police officer fires a tear gas canister during clashes with Palestinian protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron November 5, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Supreme Court on Sunday doubled the sentence of border policeman Ben Deri to 18 months for the negligent homicide of a 17-yearold Palestinian minor in May 2014.
Deri had been sentenced to only nine months in prison and an NIS 50,000 fine by the Jerusalem District Court in April.
The Supreme Court vote was two-to-one in favor of increasing the sentence with all three judges on the panel being viewed as among the court’s growing conservative wing.
Justices Noam Sohlberg and David Mintz voted to increase Deri’s sentence, while Justice Yosef Elron voted to maintain the nine-month sentence.
Deri was indicted by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office on November 23, 2014, for the fatal shooting of Nadim Nuwara when scores of Palestinians attacked soldiers with stones at a Beitunya protest near Ofer Prison, located between Ramallah and Givat Ze’ev.
The video of the shooting, which seemingly depicts an absence of any immediate danger, went viral and attracted global attention.
During the trial, Deri’s lawyer, Zion Amir, raised the possibility that the live-fire bullet used by Deri had gotten into his gun by accident, and that he had believed his gun was full of rubber bullets. Unable to disprove this scenario, the prosecution opted for a plea bargain in which it reduced the original and more serious manslaughter charge to negligent homicide.
According to the original indictment, Deri had two magazines, one with rubber bullets and one with live ammunition, the rubber bullet magazine being clearly demarcated by its red color.
At some point during the altercation, Deri switched live bullets into his rubber bullet magazine to hide his violation of the rules of engagement from the other soldiers, the indictment alleged. However, the prosecution later backed off this claim.
In January, the court held a debate over the sentencing, in which the father of the Palestinian minor said he was worried Deri would get an unfairly lenient sentence.
“If Nadim had killed Ben Deri and was convicted of negligent homicide, would the court act the way it has with Ben Deri?” asked Siam Nuwara, the father of Nadim Nuwara, at the January hearing.
Hebron shooter Elor Azaria was sentenced to only 18 months (eventually reduced to 14 months by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot) for the more serious manslaughter conviction, and negligent sentences can be as low as a month or two.
At the January hearing, Amir and Prosecutor Geula Cohen had dueled over what impact the Hebron shooter sentence should have on the court, with Cohen saying that in some ways Deri was worse than Azaria, as he admitted to feeling no danger, whereas Azaria at least claimed to be endangered.
Deri’s lawyer responded that this was twisting the facts, and Cohen’s claims contradicted the IDF prosecution’s own claims in the case against the Hebron
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