Israeli soldier who executed Palestinian man appears in court
An Israeli soldier caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian in the head as he lay on the ground appeared in a military court Tuesday as hundreds of his supporters protested outside.
Prosecutors were seeking to extend the remand of the soldier until April 7 in a case that has gripped the country and sparked political tensions, and the judge decided that he be kept in custody until Thursday.
Protesters called for the soldier's release despite video footage shared widely online showing him shoot the Palestinian in the head without any apparent provocation.
Large sections of Israeli society have defended the soldier with some hailing him as a hero.
Avigdor Lieberman, the former foreign minister now in opposition, was in court to support the soldier and, as he put it, to "balance the crude intervention of the prime minister and defence minister" in the process.
"I'm not determining if (the soldier's) conduct was correct or wrong, what's clear is I prefer a soldier who made a mistake and stayed alive over a soldier who hesitates and is murdered by a terrorist," he said.
|This was a gruesome, immoral and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation.
- Nickolay Mladenov, UN
Video of Thursday's killing in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron spread widely online and threatened to further inflame tensions amid a wave of violence that erupted in October.
It showed a 21-year-old Palestinian, who along with another man had allegedly stabbed a soldier minutes earlier, lying on the ground, apparently after being shot.
The soldier then shoots him again, in the head, without any apparent provocation. The Palestinian, Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, was killed instantly.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov last week strongly condemned the killing which he described as an "apparent extra-judicial execution".
"This was a gruesome, immoral and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation," Mladenov said.
"The suspicion emanating from the investigation is that the shooting was carried out intentionally and without need," prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Adoram Rigler told the court.
Rigler also noted "contradictions" in the soldier's version of the events.
Defence lawyers said the Palestinian could have had an explosive device, even though he had reportedly been checked for a suicide belt before the shooting.
"There was no bomb-squad investigation, even if the officer kicked away the knife," said defence lawyer Ilan Katz.
Violence since October has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead, with international rights groups accusing Israel of carrying out summary executions of alleged Palestinian attackers.