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Israel court clears policeman of killing Palestinian boy

Israeli policeman cleared for killing of Palestinian boy in 2008 in West Bank village of Nilin, for insufficient evidence

AFP , Wednesday 31 Oct 2012

An Israeli judge has acquitted a border policeman of the negligent killing of a Palestinian boy during a demonstration in the West Bank but found him guilty of improperly discharging his firearm.

The case relates to an incident in the West Bank village of Nilin on 29 July, 2008 when a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead during a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier.

Eyewitnesses said at the time that Hammad Hossam Mussa had been hit in the head by a live bullet fired by Israeli forces.

Court documents obtained by AFP on Wednesday show that during the protest, police officer Omri Abu fired several live rounds, contrary to rules of engagement.

Although police had received permission to fire rubber-coated bullets at stone-throwers, Abu had opened fire with his M-16 assault rifle.

But at a hearing on Tuesday, Magistrate Liora Frenkel acquitted Abu of any responsibility for the boy's death, saying conflicting witness accounts, pathologists' reports and ballistic evidence had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had fired the fatal shot.

"I find the accused innocent, by reason of benefit of the doubt, of the charge," of causing death by negligence, she said.

But she did find him guilty of improper firearm use, saying he fired even though his life was not endangered.

"There was no justification or permission for the firing of live rounds and the accused was aware of that," the 106-page document quoted prosecutors saying, adding that Abu had inserted a fresh magazine into his weapon in an attempt to cover it up.

Abu will be sentenced in January.

Court papers said the victim was born in 1997, but at the time of his death, local residents told AFP he was 12.

There have been multiple demonstrations against the separation barrier in Nilin, many of which have turned violent.

Six local residents have died since the protests began in 2008, including a woman who inhaled tear gas in January 2011.

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