A plea deal was scrapped Thursday between the state prosecution and a Border Guard policeman who allegedly shot and killed an Arab rioter on “Nakba (catastrophe) Day,” also known as Israeli declaration of independence day, May 15, 2014, at the Bitunia (Beitunia) check post near Ramallah in Samaria, Israeli media reported.
The deal, which had the accused admit to negligent homicide instead of the original charge of manslaughter, was rejected at the last minute by the defense.
One of the reasons the case received international attention at the time was the fact that the policeman, Ben Derry, was caught both on a local CCTV camera and by a CNN reporter, who presented the event as a shoot-to-kill incident. As the trial later revealed, a live round had been present in the soldier’s weapon, which was supposed to be loaded only with rubber bullets, for crowd control.
According to Attorney Zion Amir, who spoke to Ha’aretz, the prosecution, after having reached a plea agreement with his client, tried to sneak a fast one on him. “Today I receive the draft indictment with the plea arrangement,” Amir said, “and there – in the deal, not the indictment, there’s an item saying we agree that the [Israeli] force was never in any danger. That’s why I got angry.”
Speaking on the phone to Ha’aretz, the attorney stated he had told the prosecutors that the meaning of such an item, that a riot in which a mob of young Arabs are hurdling stones at an Israeli security force does not place the force in danger, would “expose Israel to attacks by the European Union, the UN, and the UN Security Council.”
Amir added that in the post-Sgt. Azaria era, he expected the prosecution to avoid dealing with a security event on the merit of its technical aspects only, but take into account the context.
Amir was also astonished to find out that his confidential discussion with the prosecutors was leaked to the media while he was still in the lobby on his way out.