A plea deal has reportedly been reached for a border policeman who is accused of using live ammunition instead of rubber bullets during a protest in the West Bank, causing the death of a Palestinian teenager.
A police investigation into the shooting found that Ben Deri, who was 21 at the time of the May 2014 shooting, had used a live round rather than the nonlethal munitions police were ordered to use to disperse a crowd of protesters during Nakba Day demonstrations in the West Bank village of Beitunia, near Ramallah.
Two Palestinian protesters, Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, and Muhammad Abu Taher, 22, were killed in the shooting. Deri was accused at the time of killing Nawara, and a video released following the incident appeared to show the demonstrator being shot while he was some distance from the demonstration, and appeared to pose no threat to Deri’s Border Police unit.
The plea deal is expected to be finalized in the coming days once an agreement is reached over Deri’s sentence, Channel 2 reported Monday.
Deri, who was a commander in the unit, initially claimed that he had fired only rubber bullets. According to Monday’s report, he will now admit to firing a live bullet, 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 non-lethal rounds.
According to Deri’s initial version of events, he used rubber bullets in accordance with received orders. However, the indictment claimed police had found evidence that 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.
Following Monday’s television report, Honenu released a statement calling the deal an extraordinary achievement, as the state prosecution rarely retract an initial charge of murder.
“After a dramatic legal battle, during which the border policeman remained under severely restricted conditions for more than two years,” the organization said, “the state…reached an agreement with attorney Tzion Amir which states that the defendant thought he was firing non-lethal rounds of rubber bullets but did not realize at all that there was a live bullet which had fallen into the magazine.”
Amir himself would only say: “We will make no statement until the final stage of judgement. However we are satisfied that after two and a half years of trial the prosecution retracted its claim.”
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.