IDF Commander Involved in Shooting Bound Palestinian Evades Jail Term

Despite prosecution's request for active prison service, IDF court rules Lt. Col. Omri Burberg will not be eligible for an upgrade in military rank for two years and cannot serve in a commander position for one.

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

An Israel Defense Forces court on Thursday rejected the prosecution's request to jail a commander involved in shooting a bound Palestinian at close range in the West Bank city of Na'alin two years ago.

According to the sentence issued by the court, Lt. Col. Omri Burberg will not be eligible for rank promotion for two years and is forbidden from serving as a commander for one year.

Video clip shows Ashraf Abu Rahme bound and blindfolded before being shot with a rubber bullet by an IDF soldier, in Naalin on July 7, 2008.

Burberg was convicted in July after he was caught on tape holding a blindfolded and bound prisoner and ordering a soldier, Staff Sgt. Leonardo Korea, to fire a rubber bullet at his leg.

The prosecution had sought an active prison sentence for Burberg and had demanded that he be demoted.

Burberg and Korea were both charged with unbecoming behavior after a military-police investigation into the affair and convicted in July.

Burberg was transferred following the incident from his post in Battalion 71 to the armored corps training grounds at Tze'elim.
In response to those relatively light charges, four civil-rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of Abu Rahme, requesting that the court order the Military Advocate General to change the charge to something more serious.

Military Advocate General Avichai Mandelblit responded by adding attempted threat and behavior unfitting for a commander to the charges against Burburg, and illegal use of a weapon to the charges against Korea.

Burberg arrested Ashraf Abu Rahme on July 7, 2008 for his "involvement in disrupting the peace." The prisoner was taken to the entry of the village, where he was bound and his eyes were covered.

Burberg, who had known Abu Rahme because of his role in previous demonstrations, allegedly said: "Now you will stop demonstrating against the IDF." Abu Rahme responded in Arabic, which suggests he might not understand Hebrew.

The officer suspected that Abu Rahme was lying, and turned to Korea, a soldier on his staff, and asked him: "What do you say - should we take him aside and shoot him with a rubber [bullet]?"
Korea said in response: "I have no problem to shoot him with a rubber [bullet]."

Burberg stood the prisoner on his feet, led him to a nearby jeep and told Korea to prepare a rubber bullet. "I already have one in the barrel," Korea responded.

At that point, Korea aimed at the Palestinian's foot and fired a rubber bullet from a very short range. Burberg allegedly pushed the soldier and shouted at him for shooting a bound prisoner. Korea said he thought he had received an order to shoot.

"As a result of the shooting, Abu Rahme suffered superficial injuries on his left toe, was treated by a medic and did not require further care," the chief prosecutor, Colonel Liron Liebman, wrote in the original indictment.



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