A Palestinian from the West Bank village of Bil'in has been awarded 155,000 shekels ($40,200) in damages by the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court after a member of the Border Police shot him in the arm with a sponge-tipped bullet without justification and later falsely claimed that he had been throwing stones at police.
The incident in question occurred in 2005, in the course of weekly demonstrations against construction of Israel's West Bank separation barrier between the village of Bil'in and its agricultural land.
The Palestinian, Rateb Abu Rahmeh, a lecturer at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem who has also been involved in the Seeds of Peace intercultural program, led demonstrations by dozens of village residents against the security fence. On the date in question, when they approached Israeli army concertina wire, border policemen used crowd dispersal equipment against them, and one of the policeman shot Abu Rameh in the leg with a sponge-tipped bullet. Abu Rahmeh was arrested and criminal charges were filed against him.
The policeman, Wahel Sabit, testified that Abu Rahmeh had moved the fence and had thrown stones from short range at him, but a video clip of the incident proved the policeman's account to be false. that the demonstrators were not unruly and that they began to disperse when a sound canon projecting shrill noise was deployed. After a military court judge viewed the video, he ordered Abu Rahmeh released immediately, after 14 days in custody.
Sabit was put on trial for his false account of events. In a plea agreement, he said this was his first operational mission that he had been assigned and he had been afraid of his commander. He was sentenced to seven months in prison by a magistrate's court, but on appeal to the district court, it was reduced to six months of community service.
In the civil suit that Abu Rahmeh filed against Sabit, Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Gad Ehrenberg rejected the border policeman's claim that he was immune from civil suit. The judge ruled that he, and not the state, was liable for the compensation to Abu Rahmeh because he had not acted in a manner appropriate for a border policeman.
Abu Rahmeh was awarded 155,000 shekels in damages and 20,000 shekels in attorney's fees. The damage award would have been higher, but Abu Rahmeh failed to provide documentation supporting his claim of monetary losses as a result of the incident.
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