In what is thought to be a legal precedent, a man who was convicted on criminal charges after he drove into an army firing zone while training exercises were being conducted is to pay damages to the state in an out-of-court settlement of a civil suit.
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In July, Suleiman Abu Qarun, 41, of the Bedouin town of Bir Hadaj drove an all-terrain vehicle without license plates into a closed military zone near the Tze’elim base, in the Negev. As a result of the incursion, a live-fire exercise was suspended for over an hour.
Abu Qarun was arrested after an extended chase that included the use of police helicopters. He was charged, and in February Abu Qarun was convicted by the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court of illegally entering a closed military area and of using a vehicle to commit a crime. He was given a four-month suspended sentence, and his ATV was confiscated.
Prosecutors then decided to sue Abu Qarun for damages, partly as a deterrent measure.
Before the suit was actually filed, however, the parties negotiated an out-of-court settlement.
Abu Qarun eventually agreed to pay the Defense Ministry 50,000 shekels ($13,000). That was significantly less than the Defense Ministry’s initial estimate of the damage caused by the interruption of the training exercise, which was between 200,000 shekels and 300,000 shekels.
Eran Sirota, the prosecutor who conducted the negotiations with Abu Qarun’s lawyer, said that unauthorized incursions into military training grounds are frequent and cost the army a lot of money, but the law prohibiting such incursions has proven very hard to enforce.
Sirota said the prosecution therefore intends to continue filing civil suits against violators in an effort to create a deterrent effect.