Verdict due for settler accused of shooting Gaza Arab

An English immigrant in custody since June for allegedly shooting an Arab in the leg on the beach in Gush Katif is due to hear the verdict in his trial on Sunday in Beersheba District Court. Daniel Pinner, who lives in Kfar Tapuah in Samaria, is accused of wounding Khan Yunis resident Nasser Wafi during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish occupants of the nearby Maoz Hayam hotel, where Pinner was staying for Shabbat two months before disengagement. The indictment filed against the 39-year old electrician said he arrived after the start of the fight, in which both sides threw stones at each other, and fired his Uzi submachine gun in the air and in the direction of Wafi, "with the intention of hitting him and causing severe injury." Pinner's version of events is very different. "I was in Gush Katif and was taking a walk on the sea front with my dog on Shabbat when we were attacked by 50 Arabs throwing stones," Pinner told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Ma'asiyahu Prison in Ramle. Pinner admitted to firing a few warning shots in the air, but not with the intention of killing anyone. "I backed off and they backed off. Four days later I was arrested by the police claiming I shot an Arab in the leg," he said. "My two arguments are that I didn't shoot anybody and that my life was in danger. I made those points a few times in court," Pinner said. Pinner is also charged with carrying an unlicensed weapon, with the prosecution saying that the authorization he holds restricted him to carrying it in Kfar Tapuah only, but Pinner saying the license is valid for the whole country. He and his lawyer Baruch Ben-Yoses believe they have a strong case, as the prosecution didn't prove its arguments "subjectively or objectively," the latter said. Southern District Attorney Yisca Liebowitz dismissed charges that the case was weak, saying the defendant's version was always going to be different to that of the prosecution. However, the prosecution has already dropped one charge, which was for shooting a weapon in a residential area, an accusation that Ben-Yoses is furious about. "I don't know how the beach is in the residential area. It was outrageous they even charged him with such a thing," he said. Another weakness in the state's argument is that the prosecution's Arab witnesses contradicted themselves, the lawyer said. "There was practically nothing that was said that corresponded. The major witness claimed he was with the group at the time and the others said he wasn't. He also told a story that nobody else did," said Ben-Yoses. However, Liebowitz minimized the significance of the accounts not matching. "With events that last only a few seconds, there are almost no occasions when all the witnesses agree on the details," she said. A further problem with the evidence against Pinner was that the prosecution was unable to prove that the wound Wafi suffered was from a bullet, said Ben-Yoses. This was because it was unable to summon the doctor who treated Wafi in the Gaza hospital and show that the medical report was genuine. Forensic pathologist Chen Kugel, who testified for the defense, said the document didn't provide a good enough description of the wounds. "We don't know…the type of weapon that was used and the distance from which it was shot," Kugel said. "So many details are missing." He added that although there was an exit as well as an entry wound, this could have been caused by something other than a bullet. "If it was a bullet wound, we have to prove that it was his gun that shot this bullet. I can not prove that," he said. Ben-Yoses said there were also problems with police procedure in that officers didn't conduct a line-up or measure distances and firing angles. Should Pinner be found guilty, his lawyer expects the judge to sentence him to several years in jail, although Ben-Yoses also said they will appeal to the Supreme Court. Pinner is not overly confident of his chances. "I could have run away. The incident doesn't prove my life was in clear and present danger. Only if you are dead can you prove your life was in danger. There have been too many cases where people have shot their guns under similar circumstances and have been sentenced to time in prison," he said. "I would feel a lot more confident if it was a jury system, because the jury is not under the same pressures as a judge is," he said. Ben-Yoses believes the affair has political overtones. "It was before disengagement and he was questioned by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), because they wanted to prove he wanted to stop the disengagement program. They didn't prove anything," he said.