Palestinian to testify against regiment commander

By Hanan Greenberg,, 27 Nov 2009,7340,L-3811653,00.html

Ashraf Abu Rahma, a resident of the West Bank village of Naalin, who was shot in the leg by an Israel Defense Forces soldier while handcuffed and blindfolded in July 2008, was summoned Thursday by the Military Court in the Tel Aviv’s Kirya base, Ynet has learned.

Early next week, the incident’s victim will face the two defendants in the affair, Lieutenant-Colonel Omri Burberg, who served as commander of the 71st regiment at the time, and the shooting soldier, Staff Sergeant Leonardo Corea.

“His testimony is an inseparable part of the trial,” a military source said. “It’s important that he recounts what happened from his point of view and let the judges decide.”

Talking to Ynet, Abu Rahma said he did not have any special sentiments ahead of meeting the regiment commander who stood next to the soldier while he shot him.

“I don’t think about the meeting itself, but about what I would like to say. I would like to say that first of all, we know the incident I was involved in was not an unusual one, but once that happens a lot and with many people in the territories. The only difference is that in my case it was documented and that’s how the entire world saw and heard about it.”

He added that he would attend the court hearing, although he does not believe in Israeli courts.

“The Israeli courts have proved and taught us that they are part of the occupation system. It’s like the judge, the defendant and the prosecutor are the same thing, as they are part of one system. How can the same system judge itself?

“But I will go there to tell the judge and the soldier that if there is any justice, he should be punished, so that next time, in a similar situation, he and his friends will have to think and act differently.”

He said that being summoned to testify took him back to the incident. “I remember that I felt like he was going to execute me that day. I lost all my senses, and I would like to ask him what kind of danger he saw in me, a handcuffed and blindfolded person. Why did he do it? If I did something, they should punish me, jail me, but why do what he did?”

Abu Rahma added that “all the talks about ‘apologizing’ and ‘saying sorry’ will not help and won’t convince me. They will not compensate me for what I felt during those moments.”

‘Tension ahead of meeting’

The hearing on the shooting incident during a rally against the separation fence, which was first reported by Ynet, will be resumed on Monday. The former regiment commander is accused of making threats, and the soldier is accused of unlawful use of weapons.

The two were originally indicted for a relatively mild offense – inappropriate conduct, but the charges were changed following an unusual intervention by the High Court of Justice.

Ahead of the discussion, Abu Rahma was informed by the Coordination and Liaison Authority that he must testify in the court, where he will face the officer and soldier involved in the incident.

“Obviously, there is some tension ahead of the three-way meeting between the regiment commander, the soldier and the complainant in this incident, but that’s irrelevant,” a military source said.
Another soldier, who was at the regiment commander’s post at the time of the incident, is also expected to testify on what he saw.

The Military Advocacy has yet to form an opinion on the requested punishment in case of a conviction. However, according to closed discussions, the prosecution seeks to end the affair with severe sentences to both defendants.

Ali Waked contributed to this report

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