Jerusalem prosecutors said Thursday that they had formally reached a plea bargain with a Border Police officer who in 2014 allegedly shot dead a teenage Palestinian protester in the West Bank, and was subsequently charged with wrongful death.
The family of the Palestinian teen, 17-year-old Nadeem Siam Nawara, has vowed not to accept the agreement, rejecting the defense’s arguments that the officer, Ben Deri, had not realized he was using live ammunition instead of rubber bullets when he was ordered to disperse a crowd of protesters during Nakba Day demonstrations in the West Bank village of Beitunia, near Ramallah, in May 2014.
A police investigation into the shooting found that Deri, who was 21 at the time of the incident, confirmed that he had used a live round rather than nonlethal munitions.
Nawara was killed along with fellow protester Muhammad Abu Taher, 22. A video released following the incident appeared to show that Nawara was shot while he was some distance from the demonstration and apparently posed no threat to Deri’s Border Police unit.
Nawara’s family had previously vowed to use every means possible to see justice served, including an appeal to the International Criminal Court.
“There is a video that proves that it was murder in cold blood, and all the proof and the autopsy of the body say that Deri is the murderer,” Nawara’s father told Channel 2 last month. “We don’t need a plea bargain, we have 70 witnesses that were there, and hard evidence.”
In a letter to the prosecution, a lawyer for the family, Firas Asli, wrote that it was not clear why the agreement was being pursued and why the “rights of the victims were being harmed,” according to Haaretz.
The Israeli daily described a two-year legal process marred by some 50 hearing delays and cancellations, and the dismissal of the first judge due to a connection to one of the witnesses, followed by a holdup in appointing a second judge. A new judge was finally appointed following a lawyers’ plea to spare the victim’s family from torment.
Deri, who was a commander in the unit, initially claimed that he had fired only rubber bullets. According to the agreement, he will now admit to firing a live round, but unintentionally, and will be convicted of a wrongful death charge. The new indictment prosecutors have offered to submit will argue that a live bullet accidentally fell into the magazine of Deri’s firearm alongside the rubber bullets, and Deri thought he was firing only nonlethal rounds.
According to Deri’s initial version of events, he used rubber bullets in accordance with received orders. However, the indictment claimed police found evidence Deri had allegedly intended to fire live ammunition at the back of the deceased, even though he posed no threat, with the explicit intent to cause serious harm and possible death. Deri is also accused of covering up his actions at the time.
Deri’s lawyer, Tzion Amir, of the Honenu legal rights group that defends right-wing extremists, negotiated the plea deal.
An autopsy performed by Palestinian and Israeli pathologists in 2014 found that Nawara was almost certainly killed by live fire, most likely from an IDF weapon. Two pathologists from the US and Denmark were in attendance during the autopsy, which took place at the Abu Dis Institute of Forensic Medicine in the West Bank.
An entry and exit wound were detected on the body, and shrapnel was also found, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.