April 28, 2009
An Israeli court has sentenced two border guards over the unlawful killing of a Palestinian teenager in the West Bank town of Hebron seven years ago. Imran Abu Hamdieh died after the two men, Shahar Botbeka and Denis Alhazov, pushed him from the back of a military vehicle travelling at 50mph (80km/h).
Botbeka was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and Alhazov for five-and-a-half. Botbeka's jail term for the 2002 killing is thought to be the longest for such a case in Israeli history.The sentences were handed down by Jerusalem District Court on Monday. The judge said Botbeka was the ringleader in the incident, but he noted that he had already been under house arrest for five years and was in poor mental health.
Two other border policemen have had previously been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment over the incident, one for eight-and-a-half years, the other for four-and-a-half years.
The four men seized Imran Abu Hamdieh from outside his home in Hebron on 30 December 2002 and beat him. He suffered serious head injuries when members of the border police unit - celebrating the end of their posting in Hebron - tried to make him to jump from the jeep as it sped through the streets. He refused, but as the vehicle reached up to 50mph (80km/h), the policemen managed to prise his grip loose and they pushed him out of the vehicle.
Although the sentence reportedly sets a precedent in Israel, the Israeli human rights group B'tselem said the gravity of the offense ought to have merited an even harsher punishment. "As a rule, the authorities refrain from enforcing the law on soldiers and police officers who commit crimes of violence against Palestinians," the organisation said in a written statement.
It described this verdict as a "rare instance" of Israeli security forces being held to account, as many cases were not properly investigated. In 2005, a former Israeli soldier was jailed for eight years over the death of British peace activist Tom Hurndall.