Parents of U.S. Activist Hurt in West Bank Protest Ask Israel to Reopen Case

Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, California, was hit by a tear gas canister and left comatose during a violent 2009 demonstration in the village of Naalin.

The parents of an American activist wounded during a West Bank protest in 2009 appealed the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the decision to close the case against Israeli security forces.

Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, California, was hit by a tear gas canister and left comatose during a violent 2009 demonstration in the West Bank village of Naalin.

Na'alin demonstration

In 2010, the Justice Ministry declared that no indictments would be filed against police in the case of the American activist, with Ministry spokesman Ron Roman saying that the investigation determined there was no criminal intent in harming Anderson.

The investigation was opened in May and closed several weeks ago, but results were made public only Sunday.

Israel has said its forces were responding to attacks by violent demonstrators who were ignoring an order declaring the area an off-limits closed military zone. Such clashes are a weekly Friday event in several places along the Israeli separation barrier, as Palestinians and their backers gather to confront Israeli troops.

Israel says the 680-kilometer barrier is necessary to keep Palestinian attackers out. The barrier juts into the West Bank in some places, leaving about 10 percent of the territory on the Israeli side. Palestinians view it as a land grab.

On Tuesday, Anderson's parents, Nancy and Michael, appealed the High Court against the decision to close the case, saying that the Israeli officials only investigated the conduct of Border Police soldiers while ignoring a second force that was present during the protest.

According to the family's attorney Michael Sfard and Emily Sheffer of the Yesh Din NGO, the West Bank district of Israel Police initiated an investigation of the March 2009 incident at the time, but only investigated a Border Police squad that wasn't positioned near Anderson and could not have caused his injury.

However, several crews operating nearby that were stationed near Anderson's whereabouts were not investigated at all, despite the fact that two of those squads admitted to using protest-dispersal equipment that included gas-canister launchers.

In addition, the Andersons' legal crew also claimed that the investigation team never bothered to visit the scene of the protest before deciding on closing the probe.

The Andersons added that a previous appeal submitted by them, and accepted by the state, demanding that the investigation be completed, was not followed, and that investigations officials continued to ignore what they said were clear evidence indicating another Border Police squad that was never questioned and that could have wounded the American activist.

In addition, the Andersons claim, the case was closed even following another appeal, relying on the eyewitness accounts from Palestinian and international witnesses as well as on a then newly exposed video clip purporting to show police officers firing toward a small group of civilians as they flee for cover.

The Andersons' legal team claims that the video also proves that security officers directly aimed their protest-dispersal equipment from close range, in an apparent contradiction of the IDF's rules of engagement.

"This is an extreme case of police negligence," the High Court submission said, adding that it was "unacceptable that the agency in charge of investigating a shooting incident doesn't inspect the scene of the shooting nor try to identify its origin."

"Despite the fact that we alerted the investigators on two occasions that they were investigating the wrong people, authorities continue to insist on not interrogating the relevant suspects," the Andersons' lawyers said.

The Justice Ministry said in response that the submission was accepted in the State Prosecutor's Office High Court division and that it would submit its reply to the High Court through the proper channels.