Palestinian Parents Appeal Court to Quash Plea Bargain With Cop Who Killed Their Son

High Court to examine proposed plea bargain under which border policeman Ben Dery will get light punishment.

Israeli police officer Ben Dery arrives at a Jerusalem courthouse, November 12, 2014.
Olivier Fitoussi

The parents of a slain Palestinian teen have petitioned the High Court of Justice against the prosecution’s intent to sign a plea bargain with the border policeman charged with killing him.

The court asked both the prosecution and the defense to submit their initial responses by Tuesday. The petition was submitted last Wednesday.

On May 15, 2014, Ben Dery was part of a group of border policemen stationed in the West Bank town of Beitunia, where a small demonstration was taking place to mark Nabka Day. A group of Palestinians congregated near a building on the outskirts of the town to burn tires and throw stones at the Israelis, who took shelter behind the railing of a balcony about 70 meters away.

Nadim Nuwara, 17, was fatally shot as he was walking by the building. At the time, his hands were at his sides and his face was toward the Israelis, nor had he thrown stones prior to being shot.

Video shows shooting incident at Beitunia in 2014. CNN, YouTube

About an hour later, another demonstrator, Mohammed Salameh, was also killed and two others were wounded.

Though the army initially claimed that no live fire was used during this incident, it later became clear that Nuwara was killed by a live bullet. The evidence indicates that the other three were hit by live bullets as well.

The original indictment of Dery made no mention of the fact that the border policemen fired live bullets at least four times, in violation of their orders. But it did charge Dery with knowingly firing a live bullet and accused him of intending to cause Nuwara “serious injury, while foreseeing the possibility of causing his death.”

The proposed plea bargain also accuses Dery of intending to cause serious injury when his life was not in danger. But it drops the accusation that he knowingly used a live bullet.

Attorneys Firas Asali and Yazeed Kawar, representing Nuwara’s parents, Nahil and Siam, say the plea bargain’s statement that “a live bullet accidentally entered the cartridge” is patently illogical. Moreover, they argue, though the prosecution attributed its desire for a plea bargain to “evidentiary difficulties,” it admitted that these difficulties weren’t serious.

The attorneys charge that the original indictment was altered due to extraneous considerations rather than for valid legal reasons, including the public uproar in Israel over the trial of soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of killing a wounded Palestinian assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, while he was already lying on the ground wounded.

Finally, the attorneys argue, the plea bargain “will lead to lack of deterrence and send a patently immoral message to future soldiers.”