Raz Sagi, who is running for mayor of the central Israeli town of Rosh Ha’ayin, was convicted of causing the death of a Palestinian teenager during the first intifada, while serving as a company commander.
Sagi fired a plastic bullet into the back of the teen. The court determined that the boy posed no danger to the soldiers.
Sagi was sentenced to three months’ community service within the military and he was not demoted.
Two weeks after sentence was passed, Sagi was pardoned by then-Chief of Staff Dan Shomron. He was subsequently promoted to battalion commander in the Givati Brigade.
Sagi retired from the military at the rank of colonel after serving as a division commander.
Since leaving the army he has been a vocal opponent of integrating women into combat roles in the Israel Defense Forces.
Sagi founded the IDF Fortitude Forum.
According to Sagi, the fact that numerous character witnesses testified in his behalf during the trial as well as his subsequent pardon he later received proved that the army saw no fault in his actions.
“Judges who have never been in Gaza or Judea and Samaria criticized me,” he said. “I’m not happy about the shooting and I’m not proud of it, but does anyone think I’m going to be walking around with an M16 and plastic bullets in the Rosh Ha’ayin mayor’s office?"
Sagi and his soldiers were securing an October 1989 tour being taken in the West Bank by then-Central Command commander Yitzhak Mordechai.
During a patrol of a village near Ramallah, there were disturbances and stones and other objects were thrown at the soldiers. Sagi began chasing one of the stone-throwers and according to the indictment yelled at him, “Stop or I’ll shoot.”
The youth, Zuhein Abu Hiya, continued to run and Sagi shot a plastic bullet into the air. When Abu Hiya continued to run, Sagi fired twice at his legs. One of the bullets hit him in the back; Abu Hiya died of exsanguination.
Sagi confirmed the details of the incident, saying he had never tried to hide it. The youth he shot, he said, was the leader of the riot that included the throwing of stones, bottles and firebombs at the soldiers.
The plastic bullets he shot were not meant to do damage, Sagi added. “I didn’t even bring a lawyer to the trial. I confessed immediately,” he said.
In their ruling the Southern Command military court judges said, “There’s no dispute that there were stones thrown that could have endangered the force.”
But they also wrote, “There is no dispute that under the circumstances the respondent had no authority to open fire or use plastic bullets, since the orders permit their use only when the force is in tangible danger.”
He was first sentenced to one month of community service in the military, a period that was extended on appeal to three months.
In its ruling, the appeals court expressed understanding for the difficulties and frustrations experienced by soldiers while maintaining law and order in the West Bank.
“But we are allowed to demand of them a high level of self-restraint; we are allowed to demand that they avoid unnecessary victims,” the court said.
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