Lt. Col. Omri Borberg, an Israel Defense Forces officer who ordered a soldier serving under him to fire a rubber bullet at a bound Palestinian from short range was convicted yesterday of conduct unbecoming an officer and of attempted extortion.
The subordinate, Staff Sergeant (res. ) Leonardo Corea, was found guilty of illegal use of his weapon and unbecoming conduct. The guilty verdicts at the military tribunal in Tel Aviv were unanimous.
The Palestinian was bound and blindfolded; Ashraf Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh was arrested during an anti-separation fence protest in the West Bank town of Na'alin on July 7, 2008, which was videotaped by the human rights organization B'Tselem.
After footage of the incident was widely disseminated, the Military Police launched an investigation, which resulted in an indictment against Borberg, a former battalion commander in the Armored Corps.
Initially, Borberg was charged with unbecoming conduct, which carries a relatively light punishment. This prompted Ashraf and four human rights groups to petition the High Court of Justice last year against the army's decision. The court agreed with the petitioners and ordered the military advocate general, Brigadier General Avichai Mendelblit, to add more severe crimes to the indictment. Justices Ayala Procaccia, Elyakim Rubinstein and Hanan Melcer all agreed with the petitioners, who sought an indictment that would reflect "the gravity of the acts."
Two days prior to the start of the military trial, Corea, whose name was not released for publication, decided to go public. "I received an unequivocal order to fire, and I fired," he told television's Channel 2. "It was all over in a matter of seconds. I received the order, we stepped to the side, and I fired."
Corea said that in retrospect he understands that the order was illegal, but that he would not have been capable of refusing an order from his battalion commander.
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