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Court Clears Israeli Army in US Activist Death

Tuesday, 28 Aug 2012 03:06 AM


JERUSALEM — An Israeli court on Tuesday rejected accusations that Israel was to blame for the death of American activist Rachel Corrie, who was crushed by an army bulldozer during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Gaza in 2003.

Corrie's family had accused Israel of intentionally and unlawfully killing their 23-year-old daughter, launching a civil case in the northern Israeli city of Haifa after a military investigation had cleared the army of wrong-doing.

Judge Oded Gershon said Corrie's death was a "regrettable accident," but invoked a clause that absolved the army because the incident had happened during a war-time situation, adding that the activist had ignored warnings to leave the area.

Corrie came from Olympia, Wash., and was a volunteer with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement. She had been wearing a bright orange vest at the time of the incident but the bulldozer driver said he never saw her.

Her friends said she had been standing on a mound of earth when the bulldozer advanced and that she had lost her footing as the ground moved. They said they had shouted at the driver to stop but that he ignored their cries.

The Corrie family's lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, said the court verdict contradicted "the fundamental principles of international law with regard to protection of human rights defenders."

At the time of her death, during a Palestinian uprising, Corrie was protesting against Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Corrie's death made her a symbol of the uprising, and while her family battled through the courts to establish who was responsible for her killing, her story was dramatized on stage in a dozen countries and told in the book "Let Me Stand Alone."

"UPHILL BATTLE"

"I reject the suit," the judge said in a ruling read out to a packed courtroom. "There is no justification to demand the state pay any damages," he said, dismissing a family request.

He said soldiers had done their utmost to keep people away from the site on the day of the protest in March 2003. "She [Corrie] did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done."

After the verdict was read, Corrie's mother, Cindy, told reporters: "I am hurt."

Abu Hussein said Corrie had been taking part in a non-violent protest and accused the court of providing impunity to the army.

"We knew from the beginning that we had an uphill battle to get truthful answers and justice, but we are convinced that this verdict distorts the strong evidence presented in court," Abu Hussein said.

Few Israelis showed much sympathy for Corrie's death, which took place at the height of the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of Israelis died in suicide bombings.

Senior U.S. officials criticized the original military investigation into the case, saying it had been neither thorough nor credible. But the judge said the inquiry had been appropriate and pinned no blame on the army.

He said visibility on the day of the demonstration had not been good, adding that Corrie had not been careful about where she had positioned herself.

Witnesses said Corrie was hit by a bulldozer which was razing Palestinian homes. The army said the operation was needed to deny guerrillas cover. In its inquiry, the army suggested that the fatal blow came from a falling slab of concrete.

Israel's far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition, heralded the verdict, calling it "vindication after vilification."



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2012-06-28
Tuesday, 28 Aug 2012 03:06 AM
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