Fans of attorney Zion Amir’s legal virtuosity will have another opportunity to see him in action on Thursday: He’ll be at Jerusalem District Court in the case of The State vs. Ben Dery, who is accused of killing teenager Nadim Nuwara while serving as a Border Police company commander. A live bullet to the chest, and it was all over. Another young Palestinian gone.
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It’s possible that on Thursday, we’ll witness the completion of another very successful cover-up campaign by the law enforcement agencies. For when it comes to the life of a Palestinian, what you need more than a good defense attorney is a deliberately weak prosecution, which doesn’t want to prosecute suspects for murder, manslaughter or causing injury, especially not soldiers.
In contrast to the trial of soldier Elor Azaria, Dery’s case has dragged on for so long that it’s almost been forgotten. Dery shot and killed Nuwara, a high school student, on May 15, 2014 in the West Bank town of Beitunia, from a distance of about 70 meters. The court, which adapted itself to the defense attorney’s very busy schedule, postponed and canceled and stretched out the hearings until June 2017. It’s “the trial that’s been blacked out,” to use the phrase coined by the investigative blogger Eishton, who has now resumed writing after a hiatus – and specifically about Dery.
Ben Dery reached the defendant’s stand because there were security cameras in Beitunia that filmed Nuwara’s fall (he was not throwing stones at that moment), and also a CNN crew, which filmed six Border Policemen and a soldier from the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Unit on a balcony in the Palestinian town. The cameras showed the policemen chatting, and the smile of one of them.
Will Thursday provide an opportunity to see Dery smiling in court? It is when a plea bargain concocted about six weeks ago between him and the prosecution is supposed to be presented. It constitutes an enormous achievement: The Border Policeman, who vehemently denied that he used live ammunition, was arrested on suspicion of murder, charged with manslaughter, and, under the plea bargain, would have been convicted only of negligent homicide.
Eishton reported that under the plea bargain, Dery would admit to negligence in failing to check his ammunition cartridge. He didn’t check whether a live round, with an explosive tip, might have mistakenly been placed into a cartridge of rounds without explosive tips (which are used to fire rubber-coated bullets).
On the very same day Nuwara was killed, at the very same place, three other young Palestinians were hit in the upper body by live bullets. One, Mohammed Salameh, was killed, a second was seriously wounded and the third lightly wounded. They weren’t shot by ghosts. But these cases weren’t even mentioned in the original indictment, or in the new, upgraded one.
What are the chances that on the same day, among that same small group of Border Policemen, there would be four identical mistakes in which lethal bullets wound up in the wrong cartridge? State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and three prosecutors from the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office – Nurit Litman, Geulah Cohen and Yifat Gefen – are jointly winking at all the soldiers and Border Policemen, past and present. They all know quite well how rare (and dangerous to the shooter) it is for a live bullet to be mistakenly placed somewhere it isn’t supposed to be.
But then came a twist in the plot: Last Thursday, defense attorney Amir refused to sign the plea bargain because it included a clause stating that at the time of the shooting, Dery’s life wasn’t in any danger – something all the television footage clearly proved.
As of this writing, there’s no way to know whether this is a trick – a game agreed to by both sides – or a real disagreement.
Eishton, who has been preparing an investigative report on the Dery case for the past month, made a somewhat desperate and delusional appeal (as he defined it) to the Jerusalem prosecution before this plot twist occurred: Don’t sign the plea bargain with Ben Dery. The blogger also urged Judge Daniel Teferberg to reject the plea bargain.
Perhaps there’s still time to join him and say, “Please, prove that what we said about your deliberate weakness in this case isn’t true.”