An Israeli Border Police officer who was caught on tape firing a sponge-tipped bullet at a Palestinian at a checkpoint near Jerusalem was convicted on Monday of assault and reckless use of weapons.
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The 21-year-old officer, whose name has been barred from publication by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, was charged after the video surfaced during an investigation into a separate case of suspected assault against a Palestinian by Border Police officers.
The charges against the officer carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
In the video of the event, which occured in May 2018, which was first aired by Channel 13 News, a Palestinian man detained by the Border Police force at the al-Zaim checkpoint, east of Jerusalem, is seen falling to the ground, but it is not clear who shot the rubber bullet at him. He was already far away from the force at that point. He was hit and fell to the ground.
The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers argued the officer shot him “for fun,” according to the charges pressed against her. She was eventually convicted in a plea bargain, as the prosecution could not prove whether she was indeed the one who fired the bullet or whether it was one of the other officers at the scene.
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During the investigation, correspondences between the officers surfaced, in which they brag about what had happened.
According to the amended charge sheet the officer confessed to, she and the other officers agreed not to report the incident.
She was also convicted of obstruction of justice, after refusing to hand over her phone, which investigators suspect contained evidence against her, to the Justice Ministry.
Two other officers were also charged with obstruction of justice for disrupting the proceedings of the investigation.
Israel Police said it regards the incident as “severe,” adding that the officer in question was immediately discharged from the force. “This is an unusual incident that doesn’t speak to the Border Police’s activity in defending Israel’s security and its citizens,” it added.
According to the officer’s defense attorney, Itzik Cohen, during the trial, a source from The Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers said that one of the other officers had shot at the man, and therefore the indictment was corrected accordingly. He added that “she was the only officer that was prosecuted out of the five [officers]."