Lawyer: IDF hid info on wounded activist

Lawyer claims detailed army log proves ISM volunteer Brian Avery was shot in Jenin in 2003.

Avery 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Avery 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Attorney Shlomo Lecker, who is representing a former member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) shot and badly wounded in Jenin more than four years ago, has charged that the testimony of several soldiers "substantially contradicted (and that is an understatement) the information presented to the High Court of Justice in a brief filed by the Military Advocate-General." The IDF has categorically denied Lecker's allegation. The Military Advocate-General's brief was submitted to the court in response to a petition by former ISM activist Brian Avery, who suffered severe wounds to his face in Jenin on April 5, 2003. Avery petitioned the court to order a criminal investigation of the affair after an internal IDF investigation conducted by a brigade commander concluded that no clashes recorded in Jenin that day jibed with the details of the Avery shooting. The commander also found that in the one incident that most approximated Avery's description, the soldiers had acted according to military regulations and therefore no criminal investigation was necessary. Despite its opening position against a criminal investigation, however, the state independently changed its mind in the middle of the hearings after it had submitted the brief in question, and announced that the military police would launch a criminal investigation into the shooting. Following this, Avery withdrew the petition. The military police investigation is scheduled to be completed in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Avery decided to sue the state in a civil suit for the damages he suffered in the incident and hired Lecker to represent him. Lecker obtained sworn affidavits from three of the soldiers allegedly involved in the shooting of Avery. On the basis of these affidavits, he wrote on January 3 to the state's representative in the High Court petition, Yuval Roitman, charging that the army had not told the court the truth about the incident and the ensuing military investigation. In his letter to Roitman, he made the following charges: • The Military Advocate-General told the court in his response to the petition that the army had conducted a "comprehensive and deep" investigation of the incident and that the conclusion had been "based on the investigation of the soldiers." However, Lecker quoted from the testimony of two of the soldiers directly involved in the incident, A.S., the deputy company commander, and L.C., the operator of the MAG machine gun. Both testified that the first time they had been investigated regarding the incident was by the military police, more than three years after the event. • In his response to the petition, the Military Advocate-General wrote that after the soldiers spotted suspicious figures, the machine gun operator fired eight to 10 bullets "in the direction of the highway, close to the wall of a building." In the affidavit, however, A.S. said he had ordered L.C. to fire "at the road, between the Armored Personnel Carrier [APC] and the figures," purposely aiming short. • The Military Advocate-General said that after the warning shots, the suspicious figures ran away. But according to L.C.'s testimony, "at this point, I saw that one of the figures had fallen. I told this to A.S. Afterwards, I saw that the two other figures were leaning over the one that had fallen and assumed that someone may have been hit, but I couldn't estimate how badly since the bullets were not aimed at him." • Contrary to the army's claim that the soldiers in the APC did not know (and therefore did not report) that they had hit someone, a detailed report of the incident was registered in the brigade operation's log that night. The first entry was recorded one hour after the incident and stated that "an American was severely wounded in the face by a bullet. Brian Avery is in a hospital in Jenin. They want to evacuate him to Israel." Sources in the Military Advocate-General's office categorically dismissed Lecker's claims. They said that although the military police investigation had not yet been completed, initial findings appeared to prove that Avery's injuries were caused by shrapnel or a ricochet from an IDF-fired bullet. In response to Lecker's claim that the brigade's operations log contained an entry recording the shooting, the sources said the brigade only heard of the shooting from the IDF Spokesman's Office, which called to inquire about media reports it had received concerning an American allegedly shot in Jenin. Following the phone call with the IDF Spokesman's Office, the brigade operations officer recorded the shooting in the operations log. The sources also rejected Lecker's claim that the army covered up the testimonies of the soldiers who had participated in the alleged shooting of Avery. According to the sources, while the force that operated in Jenin reported "someone bending over" following the shooting, the group of people - apparently including Avery - then got up and fled the scene. The IDF troops viewed this as an indication that their warning fire had succeeded in deterring what they believed were Palestinians. The force only realized that the person who bent over had actually been shot after they heard from the brigade, which had heard about it from the IDF Spokesman's Office.