The military appeals court last week convicted Wisam Radi of murdering a soldier during the 2000 Ramallah lynching, overturning a lower court's decision to acquit him.
The lynching occurred shortly after the intifada broke out, when two army reservists took a wrong turn and wound up in Ramallah. There, they were beaten to death by an angry mob. Afterward, pictures of one of the lynchers triumphantly brandishing his bloody hands were broadcast worldwide.
Radi, who was 25 at the time, was a Palestinian policeman serving in Ramallah. The appeals court found that after hearing two soldiers had been taken to the Ramallah police station, he rushed over and joined in abusing the body of Vadim Norzhich, who was already dead. He then went to where Yosef Avrahami was being held and hit him in the head with a lug wrench.
Israel captured and indicted Radi in 2005. But in 2010, the lower court acquitted him after deeming a key piece of evidence inadmissible on the grounds that the military prosecution had violated the defendant's rights.
There were two legal questions at issue in the case: whether Avrahami was still alive when Radi hit him, and whether Radi intended to kill him. The prosecution's main evidence on both points was the testimony of a Shin Bet security service informant called Abu Hamed, but the lower court found his testimony unconvincing.
Then the prosecution suddenly produced a tape of Radi's conversation with Abu Hamed, saying it had previously been classified for fear that releasing it would harm state security, but had now been declassified.
But the judges said this belated introduction of hitherto classified evidence violated the defendant's rights and ruled it inadmissible. As a result, they acquitted him of murder, though they convicted him of abusing the soldiers' bodies and sentenced him to seven years in jail. The prosecution then appealed the acquittal.
In its ruling last week, the appeals court deemed the lower court's decision "puzzling," saying there was no reason to bar the belated introduction of evidence that had originally been classified if it later became clear that it was essential to the case. In any event, it added, it found Abu Hamed's testimony credible.
It also disagreed with the lower court over the testimony of another witness, a Palestinian policeman who claimed to have seen Radi hitting Avrahami. The lower court didn't consider this witness credible, but the appeals court did.
Yesterday, the Shin Bet announced that two other suspects in the lynching, both members of Hamas, were arrested in the West Bank recently during an Israel Police investigation of a car robbery. The two have confessed to beating the soldiers, it added.
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