Border Policeman Convicted of Killing Palestinian During Jaffa Search

A former Border Police officer was convicted of manslaughter yesterday in the death of a Palestinian man during an October 2006 search in Jaffa for people without entry permits. Tomer Avraham was convicted in Tel Aviv District Court of killing Iyad Abu Ra'iya of the West Bank town of Tarqumiya, as well as aggravated assault and battery.

This is the first time since at least 2000 that a police officer has been convicted of killing a Palestinian or Israeli Arab within Israel. No officers were convicted in the wake of the events of October 2000, when 12 Arab Israeli citizens and one Palestinian were shot to death by Israeli police officers.

According to the verdict, on October 4, 2006, a border police unit located three Palestinians living at a construction site in Jaffa, including the victim and his brother. The officers took the men to a room at the site, beat them with clubs and sat them down against a wall, leaving Avraham to guard them. Avraham cocked his weapon and aimed it at Abu Ra'iya. At some point he pulled the trigger, apparently while he was momentarily distracted, killing Abu Ra'iya.

Avraham claimed at first that Abu Ra'iya had tried to grab his gun and that he had acted in self-defense, but he later admitted that he had cocked his weapon without any provocation.

"This is one of those cases that acts as a warning sign and makes it clear that the use of arms, even by the security forces, should only be under appropriate circumstances and when necessary," said attorney Moshe Saada of the Police Investigations Department, who prosecuted the case, yesterday. He added that the PID takes the improper use of weapons by police officers seriously, especially when it results in injuries.

Judge Oded Mudrik noted that Avraham's awareness of the fact that he was holding a gun, that he had loaded it and aimed it at another person without checking whether the safety was on fulfilled both the factual and emotional conditions for manslaughter.

Koby Kamar, Avraham's attorney, said defining his client's actions as manslaughter means soldiers could be subject to criminal prosecution and thus might avoid shooting.

Mossawa Center, The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, welcomed the conviction and called on the authorities to deal harshly with the 22 police officers who have shot and killed Arab citizens but are still serving.