Border policeman sentenced to 9 months for shooting Palestinian minor

The prosecution agreed to reduce the manslaughter charge to negligent homicide.

IDF soldier near Jenin  (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
IDF soldier near Jenin
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Border policeman Ben Deri was sentenced on Wednesday by the Jerusalem District Court to nine months in prison for the negligent homicide of a 17-year-old Palestinian minor in May 2014. He was also fined NIS 50,000.
The border policeman 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.
Deri’s lawyer, Zion Amir, indicated he would appeal the jail time, and the court granted a 45-day delay to the sentence, pending appeal.
Amir said he is pleased that the sentence was much less than what had been predicted at the start, when the charge was manslaughter, but bemoaned that a member of the Israeli security forces was given a jail sentence for operational activities during a riot.
The prosecution said the sentence sent a clear message that when security forces break the rules, there are harsh consequences. Pressed that nine months in prison for killing a Palestinian seemed inconsistent with the idea of harsh consequences, there was a fallback to the idea that the case had gotten stuck in complex evidentiary issues during the trial.
During the trial, 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, a red one with rubber bullets and a regular magazine with live ammunition. 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 light of the plea bargain and reduced charge to manslaughter, Judge Daniel Tepperberg said that the nine months prison were a balance of Deri’s excellent record as a border policeman, that he was sent to quell a riot, and the around a year that he spent with electronic ankle cuffs, against Deri’s “severe actions” of failing to ensure he had only rubber bullets in his gun and firing upon Nuwara against the rules of engagement.
IN JANUARY, the court held a debate over the sentencing, in which the father of the Palestinian minor said that he was worried that 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.
The prosecution had requested that Deri be sentenced to 20 to 27 months in prison, and said it might also consider appealing the sentence’s leniency.
On one hand, critics of Israel are likely to view the sentence as light, as they believe that Deri should have been indicted and convicted of murder.
On the other hand, in light of the prosecution’s decision to agree to a plea bargain in January 2017, reducing the manslaughter charge to negligent homicide, its request for 20 to 27 months was unusually severe, and the court’s lighter sentence was not unexpected.
Hebron shooter Elor Azaria was sentenced to only 18 months (eventually reduced to 14 months by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi
) 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 that Cohen’s claims contradicted the IDF Prosecution’s own claims in the case against the Hebron shooter.
Cohen said the court sentence must be harsh “to send a clear and unambiguous message” to soldiers about the severity of Deri’s conduct and because “he has expressed no regret and taken no responsibility” for killing Nuwara.
Amir responded, “I cry out the cry of the defendant, of the soldiers of the IDF and our security forces who devote their lives to the state and am embarrassed by the state’s arguments. Negligence is negligence. Operational activity is operational activity,” he said, in seeking a lenient sentence that would take into account that Deri shot Nuwara on a tense “Day of Rage” by Palestinians.