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December 6, 2016 / 6 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘trial’

Soldier Stabbed in Azaria Case Testifies: I Heard There Was an Explosive Charge

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

The defense continued to call its witnesses at a military court in Jaffa Sunday, in the case of IDF medic Sgt. Elor Azaria, who is facing manslaughter charges for killing a terrorist who had already been neutralized, Walla reported. The day began with the soldier who was the victim of the stabbing attack by the two terrorists at a check post in Hebron. Later in the day the court will hear from MDA Director Eli Bin.

The soldier testified that the two Arab terrorists raised the suspicion of the check post soldiers because they both were wearing heavy coats and did not stop at the metal detector. After being attacked and injured, the witness said he shot the terrorist and thought he was dead, but then he heard people crying that the terrorist was carrying an explosive charge.

The witness described the main dangers IDF soldiers face at the check posts as being stabbings and explosives. He said the two Arabs “came close to my post and I identify that something is out of the ordinary — they didn’t stop at the line, and tried to avoid the metal detector. As soon as the company commander ordered them to stop and go back, they stood and stared at each other. I put my hand on my weapon, one of them pulled out a knife and ran at the company commander to try to stab him. The company commander followed the blocking protocol and shot the terrorist. Meanwhile, as I was asking where was the second terrorist, I felt two stabs in my shoulder and my arm.”

At that point the witness said he shot the terrorist. “I turn around and while I’m falling I shoot three bullets at him and he’s fleeing. I thought he still posed danger, maybe he was going to blow up a charge. I ran after him, following the blocking protocol. He turns back and starts running at me and I hear three shots and the terrorist falls down. Since I didn’t know if he had explosives on him I didn’t want to take a chance, I tried to shoot him and didn’t succeed. Then I thought he was dead and went to report the incident over the com. When I was inside the ambulance I heard the cries about the explosive charge and became very tense as a result.”

The witness described a chaotic scene in which “no one took charge, no one gave orders.” He told the court that the defendant, Sgt. Azaria “was standing next to me, I think he turned towards the terrorist and looked in his direction. There was a lot of pressure in the scene.”

The witness also told the court that the IDF reneged on a decision to award him a certificate of appreciation for his performance while being wounded. He reported asking the deputy brigade commander why he wasn’t receiving the award and the latter did not offer a clear explanation, other than to say “the IDF is a bit chincy on these matters.”

As to his own relationship with the defendant, the witness said they “enlisted together, went through training together, did everything together. He is a very generous man and always likes to give, no matter when and how. He’s a soldier that no matter what’s the mission, he always does it without showing it when it’s tough. A man of values and tolerance.”

David Israel

Former Deputy Chief of Staff: Every Day Sgt. Azaria Is on Trial Damages the IDF

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Gen (Res.) Uzi Dayan, who at one point was head of the IDF Central Command and is a nephew of the late Moshe Dayan, told a military court in Jaffa on Monday it should not have been involved in the case of shooting medic Sgt. Elor Azaria in the first place.

“I don’t know if the soldier sinned or not,” Gen. Dayan, a witness for the defense, stressed. “I’m concerned about the soldiers on the ground. Every such [court trial] day is causing more damage to the IDF.” He then turned to the judges and said, “It’s still not too late to reach a plea bargain, the damage to the Army is enormous.”

Gen. Dayan testified that, in his opinion, “every terrorist has a death sentence on his head, regardless of whether or not they pose a risk at the moment.”

The man who commanded the Hebron region at one point and served as National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, said there should not have been a military police investigation of the case, nor a consequent involvement of the military prosecution, and certainly no trial. He also told the court that in his entire career he never permitted the military police to investigate an operational event.

“The military police does not have the tools needed to investigate operational events,” Gen. Dayan told the panel of three military judges. “It’s a shame that instead of using the tool of an investigating committee, they rolled it straight to the criminal arena. If a warrior makes a mistake, we don’t roll it over to the criminal realm, unless an insidious motive is involved.”

When the prosecutor asked if the rules of engagement don’t forbid killing a terrorist simply because he is a terrorist, Gen. Dayan responded, “This is patently wrong. What’s relevant are the mission instructions. I ordered to kill terrorists simply because they were terrorists, regardless of whether they endangered or didn’t endanger. … Terrorists must be killed. Is it under any condition? No, that’s true. But as to the question of whether terrorists should be killed, the answer is yes.”

At the end of his testimony, Gen. Dayan told the judges, “Many eyes are trained on you. The issue is under an unprecedented public debate, which means that your decision bears an enormous significance.”

Gen. (Res.) Dan Biton, who also testified for the defense, warned the court in a written affidavit that “there was a command failure on the part of the brigade commander, battalion commander and company commander.” He added, “In my opinion the company commander was in a trauma as a result of the shooting. This case represents a fault line. A wrong decision would lead to a situation whereby every soldier would be afraid to open fire to save a life.”

JNi.Media

Duma Arson Trial Postponed as Defense Attorneys Resign, Citing Interference

Friday, September 16th, 2016

The Central District Court has postponed the starting date for the trial of three defendants accused of perpetrating the Arson killing in the Village of Duma in Judea and Samaria July 31, 2015, and canceled five evidentiary hearings scheduled for September, the first of which was to begin Sunday, Makor Rishon reported Friday. The court will convene on Sept. 26 to set new dates for the canceled sessions.

The reason for the postponement was the resignation of attorneys Yoram Sheftel and Yitzhak Bam who represent the key defendant, Amiram Ben Oliel. The two attorneys resigned after they had discovered they could not conduct face to face meetings in the same room with their client, and would be restricted to meeting through a glass partition. They were also forbidden to conduct phone conversations with their client.

“They presented us with impossible conditions they don’t impose on any other defendant,” attorney Sheftel told Makor Rishon. “It’s all done with full backup from the prosecution and the court, who refuse to instruct the Prisons Authority to permit us to meet with our client the way all attorneys are allowed to meet with their clients. The court in effect prevents Ben Oliel from receiving the representation he wants and needs, making him face a fait accompli.

Following the resignation of Ben Oliel’s team, the court appointed him a public defender, but he announced that he refuses to cooperate with them and with the court procedures unless he gets his old team back.

Attorney Bam said Shabak is trying to “hide the torture they used against the defendant to squeeze a confession out of him, by sabotaging his defense, to make sure their crimes aren’t exposed in court.”

The prosecution issued a s statement saying Ben Oliel is a terror suspect, and as such his meetings with his attorneys must be conducted through a partition.

David Israel

Defense Witnesses in Hebron Shooting Trial Accuses Ya’alon of Meddling

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

The trial of IDF medic Elor Azaria, who shot dead an Arab terrorist in Hebron last Purim after the latter had already been felled to the ground, was resumed Sunday morning after a month’s break. The defense plans to introduce four new witnesses, most likely local civilians who were present at the scene at the time of the shooting.

The first defense witness to take the stand Sunday morning was Eliyahu Liebman, Hebron’s Security Officer for the past 22 years, who received a commendation from the IDF chief of staff back in 2002 for his role in protecting Jewish worshipers from Arab attackers during the second Intifada. Liebman said the IDF and the media presented an inaccurate picture of reality at the time of the shooting. He accused them of painting a target around Azaria after the fact. He recalled a phone conversation from a person in former defense minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon’s circle who told Liebman that “Bogie told him even the Hebron Security Officer thinks the shooting was invalid. He asked if this was true, I answered it was a complete lie.”

Liebman testified that he had not been questioned by military police following the incident, and that other security officers had been skipped by investigators. He told the court, “I suspect that in this case we weren’t just accidentally not summoned for questioning, and it looks like it had to do with the comments by then Defense Minister Ya’alon following the shooting incident.”

Ya’alon, as well as IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, openly chastised the defendant well before the investigation of the case had even begun.

Liebman testified that the removal of the terrorist’s body was done in a manner contrary to protocol. “The terrorist was taken away without being checked and contrary to the professional opinion of the sappers. It put in risk anyone who carried him until the moment the sappers checked him and ruled him clear.”

Azaria’s defense team has announced it would present several witnesses the prosecution opted to skip, noting that “the indictment mentions 77 witnesses, out of whom the prosecution chose to hear 22, when it realized that its own witnesses … utterly contradict its version of events.” The defense will endeavor to complete the picture as the prosecution should have done, suggesting it is “convinced once the full picture and not a partial and twisted picture is presented, things will be clarified at the court room.”

The task of the defense is to repair the damage caused by the confrontational testimony given by the defendant Azaria. He was baited by the chief prosecutor and was unable to explain blatant contradictions between different statements he had given regarding the shooting. He introduced a new claim, an accusation that his company commander slapped him after the shooting, an element he had never before mentioned. He also accused his battalion commander of lying but was unable to offer a coherent reason as to why he would do so, other than “fear of the media.”

Still, an unconvincing testimony by the defendant does not necessarily mean the judges would hold it against him should the defense be able to poke holes at the prosecution’s version of events. Much of the debate will circle around whether or not there was a reasonable expectation that the terrorist on the ground, who was severely injured but not fatally so, still posed a lethal danger. In that context, the fact that the terrorist was wearing a heavy coat on a sunny day — a telltale sign of a potential suicide bombing — combined with mismanagement of the potential danger, could advance the defendant’s cause.

JNi.Media

Israeli Media Reporting on Hebron Shooter Trial Strictly Political

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

“Sitting next to his parents, with a blank face, [Sergeant Elor] Azaria is realizing the defense arguments are collapsing,” Shabtay Bendet wrote in Walla last Thursday, on the trial of the medic who last Purim in Hebron shot to death an Arab Terrorist who had already been neutralized and was lying on the pavement. An Arab B’Tselem cameraman captured the incident, and as a result what would have ended in a disciplinary hearing for the shooter, at most, quickly turned into a murder charge which was then reduced to a manslaughter indictment by the IDF prosecutor.

“These last few days of hearings did not bode well for the soldier, accused of killing a terrorist,” wrote Bendet, as if the term “terrorist” was a kind of civilian occupation, and could be easily substituted with “housewife” or “driving instructor,” or “electrician.” Bendet continued: “One after the other the witnesses undercut the defense claim that the terrorist posed a real threat of carrying an explosive charge on his person. Meanwhile, Azaria and his family have been maintaining their silence, except for one outburst borne by the realization that things are not great [for them].”

Bendet’s report about how the prosecution has been winning the Azaria trial mirrors countless reports with a similar message which have saturated Israel’s media over the weekend. And, naturally, the further to the left the writer, the broader the implications of the Azaria manslaughter case regarding the entire Netanyahu government and its policies in Judea and Samaria.

Ravit Hecht criticized in Haaretz on Friday Azaria’s father’s emotional call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to intervene in hi son’s case. “The father is calling on the prime minister to, in effect, take action against the army,” she wrote. “The father is turning to the prime minister to sabotage the machinery of the very system with which he is trusted.”

Hecht then goes on to accuse Netanyahu of always sabotaging the systems he is trusted with, but it’s clear from her approach that a conviction in the Azaria case is the proper outcome, while, should the 19-year-old sergeant be acquitted, democracy would be in peril.

Bendet, for his part, misunderstands the central issue in this case, which has made it such a tough case for the prosecution, they had to go and recruit outside talent from Israel’s top litigation firm. The case depends not on the objective conditions near the Hebron check point on the morning of the incident and whether or not there was a realistic expectation of the terrorist carrying explosives on his body, but on the state of mind of the shooter at the time: did Sergeant Azaria believe the terrorist posed a credible threat while on the ground?

But even regarding the rules of engagement as they were understood at the time of the incident, the prosecution’s testimonies are problematic, if not outright tainted, according to Moshe Ifergan, writing for Mida Saturday.

“Don’t believe what the media are telling you,” Ifergen insisted. “Judicially speaking, the testimonies of the division commander, the soldier and the company sergeant who were at the scene prove that the prosecution has collapsed. Severe internal contradictions in witnesses’ testimonies and obstructions of the investigation on the part of the command level should lead to a mistrial.”

Ifergen accuses the IDF of intervening in the investigation in a manner that hopelessly polluted the evidence and the testimony. Kalman Liebskind, writing for Ma’ariv also accused then defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF chief of staff Gabi Eizenkot of jumping to damning conclusions before the investigation had begun, and essentially shutting out any testimony that contradicted their strong and unmistaken condemnation of the accused. The defense was able to elicit from several witnesses, rank and file soldiers in Azaria’s unit, testimony about the massive campaign on the part of the division commander and the new battalion commander to condemn the accused.

A central question in the case, which everyone involved, including the judge, keep going back to, is the prosecution’s argument that the behavior of the soldiers in the B’Tselem video does not show that they were concerned about an explosive charge on the terrorist’s body, which the defense says was the reason Azaria shot him on the ground. Since these soldiers had undergone special training to handle explosives in such a situation, goes the argument, their lack of concern is evidence that no such threat existed at the time, ergo Azaria shot the terrorist because he hates Arabs.

But the protocols suggest otherwise. Here’s one exchange:

Defense: You underwent instruction with visualized situations of isolating a terror attack scene?

Soldier M: No.

D: You underwent instruction and situations where there was concern for an explosive charge on a terrorist?

M: No.

D: And on the terrorist’s body?

M: No.

D: The division commander who testified here said in an announcement [date omitted] that he instructed the commanders at the check point in Kiryat Arba (near Hebron) with the complete set of scenarios and that he wants to believe that this was passed on to all the soldiers. To you it wasn’t passed?

M: No, it wasn’t passed.

. . .

D: [A previous witness, an enlisted man] says like you’re saying, that you didn’t undergo training in situations of isolating an attack scene, and he says you didn’t undergo instruction and visualizing of situations where there was concern for an explosive load on the body of a terrorist?

M: No, just like I said a minute ago.

D: The company commander also confirms this regarding a lack of instruction for explosive charges here. Does this match your version?

M: Yes.

The defense questioned three witnesses on this point, proving without the shadow of a doubt that while the division chief had instructed his commanders on the rules of engagement and protocol regarding a terrorist suspected of carrying a charge, the commanders did not consequently train their own underlings, which would suggest that the reason they appear care free and unafraid of an impending explosion was ignorance.

Meanwhile, earlier in the proceedings, the defense received confirmation to its point regarding the danger of an explosive from a prosecution witness, Sergeant A.

Prosecutor: When you arrived on the scene, what was your assignment?

A: To secure the terrorist who was situated at the bottom part of the slope, [dressed] in black, and to isolate the scene.

P: Who gave you this assignment?

A: Meir Avni (company commander).

P: What did he tell you regarding the terrorist?

A: He said the terrorist was still alive and there’s a concern about a charge on his person, I shouldn’t let people coming from down below to get close.

This was then used poignantly by the defense.

Defense: [Company Commander] Avni knows about the concern regarding the charge, this contrary to the testimony of the Division Commander.

A: Correct.

D: And he instructs you not to go near the terrorist, to wait for the sapper and stay away from him.

A: Yes, [but] on point there’s one correction, I was instructed especially to stand behind the sapper and make sure people who are not part of the security forces not go near.

The odds on an acquittal or a mistrial for Sergeant Azaria among legal professionals who are interviewed by the media are about fifty-fifty. With one military judge already having been forced to recuse herself following an accusation of conflict of interests, and with the security establishment appearing so heavily invested in getting a conviction, it won’t be an easy task for the military judicial panel to rule against the system. But the case for both an acquittal and a mistrial appears strong, so that there’s little doubt that a conviction would result in an appeal to the civilian Supreme Court.

JNi.Media

Prosecution Loses Round As Judge Recused in Trial of Soldier Who Killed Neutralized Terrorist

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

President of the Military Court, Colonel Maya Heller, on Sunday decided to approve the defense request in Sgt. Elor Azaria’s trial, and recuse one of the judges on the panel, Israeli media reported. The defense argued that the judge is on friendly terms with Hebron Brigade commander, Colonel Yariv Ben Ezra. The defense attorneys said they did not doubt the military judge’s honesty, but wanted to avoid a conflict of interest nevertheless. They won the round and will start the proceedings with a point advantage.

The trial of IDF medic Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot dead a stabbing terrorist who was already on the ground, is scheduled to start on Monday in a military court in Jaffa with much less media attention than the case received back in March, when the military prosecutor was still hell-bent on charging Azaria with murder. Many Israelis were irate at the sheer injustice of the idea and the widespread protests convinced Prime Minister Netanyahu that his defense minister was pushing him off a cliff with his newly found, left-leaning political posturing. The case, which would have ended with a disciplinary hearing had an Arab B’Tselem cameraman not immortalized the episode, was downgraded last month to manslaughter and misconduct, as well as defying the rules of engagement without operational justification. Netanyahu, who met with Azaria’s father to reassure him his son is in good hands, has meanwhile fired Moshe Ya’alon, his pesky defense minister, reducing further the chances for collateral damage to Netanyahu from the trial come the next elections.

This is a do or die case for the military prosecution, which has taken its share of lumps so far. Its requests to remand Azaria to prison until the end of his trial was rejected, and he is free to walk around his unit’s base, just not go out. Except that the prosecution also lost its demand that he not be allowed to join his family seder at home. He did, with the court’s blessing. And so, feeling understandably wobbly on its feet, the military prosecution decided to enlist attorney Nadav Weisman, a renowned litigator and senior partner in the biggest law firm in Israel, Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal.

Making star attorney Weisman the litigator means the prosecution is going for broke. MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) in early May demanded clarifications from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot about the army conscripting a ringer for this match, among other things — how much was this costing the IDF?

From its show of zeal, it’s obvious the prosecution does not plan to offer Azaria a plea bargain, which should have been the easiest and least painful solution to everyone involved. A plea would have meant that the case would eventually disappear from memory, making room for newer attacks on Israel and the IDF. Dragging the case in court will have the opposite effect, keeping the gory details in the news: was the terrorist on the ground moving? Was Azaria justified? Why didn’t he call out an alert? It will also, inevitably, reveal that the majority of Israelis believe that a terrorist who picks up a knife and goes about stabbing Israelis should be certain of being killed. It’s like the death penalty, but cheaper and faster. It’s a perfectly reasonable sentiment, but do we want it debated on the BBC every night? Hardly. Now, however, thanks to a few wounded prosecutors’ egos, the tired topic of “it all started when Israel retaliated” will be king once more on the world’s stages.

It is funny, though, one must admit, to prosecute a soldier for killing a terrorist. Richard Goldstone, you have taught us so much…

JNi.Media

Owner of Gaza Smuggling Tunnel on Trial in Israel

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Israel’s Southern District Attorney (Criminal) on Sunday submitted to the Be’er Sheva District Court an indictment against a Hamas terrorist on 18 counts of acts against state security. Among other things, according to the indictment, the accused, Medhat Ben Fawzi Abu Snima, 24, a resident of Gaza, in 2014 joined a partnership that ran a smuggling tunnel from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.

The tunnel is 0.6 miles long, leading from Egyptian Rafah to the Gazan Rafah. The buy-in cost was $7,000. Over the period between early 2014 and the end of 2015, the accused and his partners smuggled through their tunnel military uniforms for the Hamas naval commando unit, as well as weapons which were delivered to merchants in Gaza. The return the accused collected on his investment was $2,000 a month. That success story ended when the Egyptian military flooded the tunnel and demolished it.

According to the indictment, Abu Snima joined Hamas in 2007 and collaborated with other Hamas members to cause harm to IDF soldiers as well as to Israeli civilians. He conducted observations of Israeli military targets near the Gaza border and planted explosives against IDF jeeps in order to cause the death of IDF soldiers.

In 2012, following the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, the accused and others shot rockets at an IDF post and shot mortar shells at the Kerem Shalom crossing. He also participated in Hamas military training as well as in a course to become a professional sniper.

The indictment also contains counts of contacting a foreign agent, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, communicating information to the enemy with the intention of harming state security, illegal military training, membership and activity in an illegal association, and weapons violations.

David Israel

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/owner-of-gaza-smuggling-tunnel-on-trial-in-israel/2016/05/01/

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