‘Ex-IDF chief prosecutor changed indictment, due to outside pressure’

Disclosure comes after Palestinian who ran over Israeli in Judea in 2015 is convicted of murder

A Palestinian vehicle rams into Israeli Avraham Hasno, who died later, in Hebron (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA/REUTERS)
A Palestinian vehicle rams into Israeli Avraham Hasno, who died later, in Hebron
The IDF chief prosecutor changed the charge against a Palestinian who ran over a Jew in the West Bank during the “knife intifada” from manslaughter to murder, due to outside pressure, former IDF chief West Bank prosecutor Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Hirsch’s revelation came after the Judea Military Court convicted Mahmoud a-Titi of murder for running over Avraham Hasno in October 2015. The event happened at the height of the intifada and under complex circumstances, which led Hirsch to originally charge a-Titi with mere manslaughter.
While Hirsch said that he must bow his head to the decision of the court with its murder conviction, he still thought it was important to voice what he considered were problems with how then-IDF chief prosecutor Col. Sharon Zigagi, who changed the charge under pressure from Hasno’s family.
Hirsch told the Post that “this decision to change the charge was made solely because of the pressure of the family.”
Murder can be the charge only if there was a specific intent to kill. Manslaughter is the charge for killing because of recklessness or a spontaneous decision to generically harm someone without realizing that the result will be death.
According to Hirsch, “The Hasno family met with chief IDF prosecutor Sharon Zigagi. I was not invited to this meeting. I only learned about the meeting after it would have been impossible for me to get to the meeting in time from Camp Ofer.
“The IDF chief prosecutor then decided, without checking in with me and without asking further questions, to change the charge” to murder, Hirsch continued.
Afterward, Hirsch said, “She then agreed to hold an additional meeting with me due to my adamance. But even this meeting was just ‘for the record.’”
He added that there was a website that said he had changed the charge in the indictment “because of my political views – this was completely untrue,” he said. “It happened to be that shortly after [the charge was changed] a new decision [by the courts] was made [that could support a murder charge], but this was not known then.”
An IDF source said that the Judea Court’s decision, currently under gag order, specifically repudiated the claim of improper outside pressure by the family as being the basis of the decision. Further, the source argued that the court’s decision supporting the Zigagi change should be all the proof needed that Zigagi made the right decision.
In addition, there were implications that even when Zigagi made her decision, there was already a rising trend in the law to seriously take into account relevant evidence presented by victims’ families.
Hirsch said that he cannot reveal the reasons he supported a manslaughter charge as opposed to a murder charge as not to influence the case.
The defense had argued that what happened was an accident or at the very least a bizarre spontaneous event that could not be called planned.
Hasno got out of his car on the West Bank road where the incident occurred because Palestinians were throwing rocks at his car. A-Titi was driving on the road and ran over Hasno.
Based on the complex circumstances, the IDF prosecution charged a-Titi with manslaughter. However, there was a media and political uproar over the lenient charge, and it was eventually changed to murder.
Ironically, Hirsch, who currently works for Palestinian Media Watch and represents families of Jewish victims of terrorism, is usually thought of as right wing. However, in this case, which occurred while he was still bound by his IDF oath, Hirsch fought to obtain a more lenient charge.