PARIS - A Paris appeals court yesterday found French Web site owner Phillipe Karsenty not guilty of slandering France 2 public television, and backed Karsenty's claim that the station and its Middle East correspondent had broadcast a staged report on the death of the Palestinian boy Mohammad al-Dura on September 30, 2000.
The disturbing images of al-Dura and his father, crouching in front of a wall amid an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants at the Netzarim junction in Gaza, were shown around the world, raising a storm of controversy. The France 2 report showed the father, Jamal al-Dura, gesturing to try to stop the shooting, and then cut to a shot of the boy lying on his father's lap, with the network's Middle East correspondent Charles Enderlin saying he had been killed by Israeli fire.
In November 2004, Phillipe Karsenty wrote on his Web site Media Ratings that al-Dura's death had been staged, and accused Enderlin, who was not on location during the clashes, of using images doctored by his Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma for propaganda purposes.
The French station sued Karsenty and won. However, Karsenty appealed the decision. During this second trial, in the 11th chamber of the Paris appeals court, the judge asked to view the film footage.
In a February 2005 hearing, Karsenty said the footage showed the boy still moving his arm, even though the cameraman had said he was dead. He provided a report from a French ballistics expert indicating the shots fired past the al-Duras came from the Palestinian position, and he pointed out that several scenes before the al-Dura incident appeared staged.
The judge agreed in that hearing that some scenes did not seem genuine.
However, Enderlin said that the images were no different from the clashes he had witnessed repeatedly. The prosecution stated that a dead Palestinian boy had been buried after the Netzarim junction incident, and that Jamal al-Dura consented to DNA tests that could prove the boy was his son.
"This is the victory of truth against the lies broadcasted by France 2. The honor of France has been saved," Karsenty told Haaretz.
Speaking to reporters in the courthouse, Karsenty called on France 2 to apologize officially.
"France 2 must recognize its mistake. If it does not do so, it will bear responsibility for the hatred and incitement launched by this report," he said. "Incitement against Israel, Jews and the West in the Muslim world must stop. This hatred led to violence and the death of Daniel Pearl."
Karsenty told Haaretz that the fact that Israel had not supported his position made things difficult for him.