Body of assassinated Palestinian given emotional send-off


KUALA LUMPUR: Friends of the late Palestinian professor Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh carry his coffin out of a mosque after special prayers in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh, 35, was struck down in a hail of bullets by motorbike-riding attackers on April 21 as he walked to a mosque for dawn prayers. —AFP

JERUSALEM: An Israeli former paramilitary policeman was jailed for nine months yesterday for killing a teenage Palestinian protester in 2014, prompting protests from the youngster's family who demanded a tougher sentence. In a plea bargain, defendant Ben Deri had earlier confessed to the negligent manslaughter and aggravated injury of 17-year-old Nadim Nuwara - less serious than the full manslaughter charge he originally faced.

"This is not how justice is done," Nuwara's father Issam told Reuters after the sentencing. "I never expected the Israeli court to do justice for my martyred son, but I had to do all I can to present a solid case and to expose the Israeli judicial system before the world and I did." Prosecutors had originally filed full manslaughter charges against Deri, accusing him of deliberately switching his rubber bullets for the live round that killed Nuwara at Beitunia village in the occupied West Bank. The amended indictment, agreed to by Deri and approved by Jerusalem District Court, described the switch as accidental.

Negligent manslaughter carries a maximum three-year jail term in Israel. Manslaughter, by contrast, carries a maximum 20-year sentence as that charge can apply to deliberate killings where there is no clear evidence of premeditation. The court handed Deri a nine-month jail term, an additional six-month suspended sentence, and ordered Deri to pay 50,000 shekels ($14,000) in damages to Nuwara's family. Deri was convicted of aggravate injury after the court determined that he had aimed what he thought was a rubber bullet at Nuwara's chest at Beitunia on May 15, 2014.

A second teenage protester was killed in the Beitunia incident but Israel did not pursue charges in that case, citing lack of evidence as an autopsy was not carried out. The court statement yesterday said the shooting took place after the stone-throwing by the protesters had ceased. "Contrary to regulations, and despite the fact that the deceased posed no threat to the (Israeli) unit, the defendant aimed his weapon at the torso of the deceased and fired at the deceased with the intent of injuring him."

The deaths stoked Palestinian fury at Israel in the weeks after US-sponsored peace talks collapsed in April. An Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, is due to be released from prison next month after serving two-thirds of an 14-month sentence for manslaughter over his killing of a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian assailant in the West Bank in 2016. Azaria was originally sentenced to 18 months in jail, a term the Palestinian government condemned as a "green light" to kill with impunity. Israel's armed forces chief cut that sentence by four months and it was later shortened by a third for good behavior.

Emotional send-off

In another development, the body of an assassinated Palestinian scientist was yesterday driven through the Malaysian capital accompanied by a crowd shouting "God is greatest", as mourners accused Israel of killing him. Fadi Mohammad Al-Batsh's corpse was set to be flown to Egypt later in the day before being transported on to Gaza for burial. Batsh, a member of Islamist militant group Hamas and said to be a rocket-making expert, was murdered in a hail of bullets by motorbike-riding attackers Saturday as he walked to a Kuala Lumpur mosque for dawn prayers. Family and friends of the 35-year-old have accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of carrying out the killing but the Jewish state has denied the claims.

Hundreds of mourners marched through the capital under Palestinian flags accompanying a van holding the body, as they carried placards showing the victim's face. The remains were taken to a mosque, where prayers for the dead were performed before about 500 mourners."Every Palestinian who has heard of this assassination is saddened and shocked," said Muslim Imran, chairman of the Palestinian Cultural Organization of Malaysia. "This crime, I believe, is another reflection of the nature of the Israeli occupation. They carry out crimes, massacres, not only in Palestine but also in the rest of the world."

Malik Taibi, an Algerian student who was Batsh's neighbor, added the victim was a "very kind man". "We hope that the ones that killed him are caught by the Malaysian government." Earlier yesterday police said they believed the two suspects accused of carrying out the hit were still in the country, and released a photograph of one of them. The men were believed to have entered Malaysia in January but their nationalities were still not known, police said. The motorbike they were allegedly riding was found abandoned Tuesday not far from where the assassination took place, and police were able to trace the photo.

It showed a man with wavy black hair, glasses and a goatee beard. Police previously released two computer-generated images of the suspects, showing two light-skinned men with beards. Mossad is believed to have assassinated Palestinian militants and scientists in the past, but rarely confirms such operations. Batsh's expertise in making weapons could have made him a target-militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza regularly fire rockets at southern Israel, usually without causing casualties. But Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has denied claims of the state's involvement, suggesting instead that it was a "settling of accounts" between factions of a terror group.- Agencies