The military court in Jaffa approved the plea bargains for three combat soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda infantry battalion who were convicted of aggravated abuse of a Palestinian father and son in January. The soldiers were sentenced to six months in prison and will be demoted to the rank of private.
“The verdicts include prison sentences of only a few months and a criminal conviction, which is expected to be expunged within just two years in a manner that will significantly limit the harm to the fighters later in their civilian lives,” said the military defender’s office.
On Thursday, the military court convicted the three soldiers from Netzah Yehuda, an all-male ultra-Orthodox unit that allows soldiers to serve in the army while strictly observing religious customs. It is part of the Kfir infantry brigade.
The trials of the other two soldiers indicted for abuse are continuing.
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The indictments against the five soldiers were filed in January, charging them with aggravated abuse and aggravated battery. Two of the soldiers are also charged with obstruction of justice, after they coordinated their testimonies.
One detainee’s injuries were so severe that investigators could not question him immediately following the incident. The two Palestinians were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where one of them remained in the hospital for three days.
According to the indictment, the Palestinians, a father and son, were detained on January 8 on suspicion of aiding the terrorist who committed the attack at the intersection near the West Bank outpost of Givat Assaf in December. It turned out that the pair had not been directly involved in planning or carrying out the attack in which two soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion, who were friends of the defendants, were murdered.
After the arrest of the father and son, on their way to the base in Beit El, the soldiers punched and kicked the two, who were handcuffed and blindfolded, and hit them with their weapons, causing serious injuries.
The soldiers’ commander, a lieutenant, was also indicted last month for not preventing the violence. The officer was charged with failure to prevent a crime, negligently causing injury and conduct unbecoming an officer.”The commander noticed his soldiers enacting harsh violence against the Palestinian detainees, while they were handcuffed and blindfolded, and despite this did not prevent them from continuing to beat them,” said the indictment. The officer was suspended from his duties as a result of the incident.
In addition the military police investigated a soldier who filmed the abuse in a two minute video clip. The soldier at first denied having anything to do with the video, then admitted that he filmed it and said: “It’s not a nice situation, it’s even shameful. It’s a shameful video. If someone had filmed me doing this, I would have stopped immediately. I filmed them so they would stop.” He said the abuse was halted in time and there was nothing excessive about it.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Nitai Okesh, testified on behalf of his soldiers. He asked the court to show compassion in sentencing the soldiers because they truly regretted their actions. He said most of the soldiers in the battalion were volunteers who sacrificed a great deal to serve in the army. Some are “lone soldiers” without any family or without contact with their families, and some made aliyah to serve in the army. He said the soldiers have problems at home and their duty is intensive, especially after the recent events in which their comrades were killed, and the battalion was under heavy pressure.