Family of slain Palestinian seeks murder charge

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The American wife of a Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli police said Wednesday she still hopes to see the officer who killed him put on trial, even though he was cleared by the Israeli authorities this week.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 21 Jan 2011, 12:46 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:04 AM

The shooting took place in June in east Jerusalem, where tensions often run high between Palestinian residents and Israeli security forces. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as a future capital.

There is no dispute that the officer killed Ziad Jilani, but the two sides disagree on whether it was justified. An Israeli investigation found that the police officer made a mistake but could not be charged.

Israeli police said at the time that Jilani’s truck swerved into a group of police in east Jerusalem, slightly injuring two officers. Police said officers gave chase, fired in the air and ordered Jilani to stop when he fled on foot, then shot him. He died of his wounds.

Israel’s Justice Ministry acknowledged in a statement this week that the officer shot Jilani at close range while he was on the ground. It said the officer did not admit this at first.

The ministry closed the investigation, finding that the officers “believed this was a terror attack and reacted in keeping with the rules of engagement in order to stop a person they believed to be an attacker.”

The statement said the investigation did not determine that Jilani had deliberately targeted the officers, adding that he may have lost control of his car. It said criminal liability could not be assigned “to a mistake — even a grave one — in judgment.”

Jilani’s wife, Moira, said she wants Israeli authorities to state clearly that her husband did nothing wrong, apologize for his death and put the officer on trial. “No one from the Israeli side came to talk to me,” she said.

The family’s lawyer, Hassan Tabjah, said an autopsy showed that Jilani was shot in the face while lying on the ground. He said closing the investigation failed to hold the officer accountable.

“It’s a political decision that shows that Palestinian blood is cheap and that the feelings and self-confidence of a soldier are more important than any Palestinian,” he said.

Tabjah said the family would appeal to have the case reopened and hoped the officer would stand trial. “We think this policeman should be tried in a court of law for murder,” he said.

There have been cases in the past of Palestinians driving vehicles into crowds of civilians or soldiers on purpose.

Moira Jilani, an American citizen, grew up in Barbados and Houston, Texas, where she met her husband. The couple moved to Jerusalem 17 years ago. Ziad Jilani, who was 39 at the time of his death, had U.S. residency rights.

Also Wednesday, the bitter rivalry between the Islamic militant Hamas and the more pragmatic Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took a new turn.

A Hamas supporter, Tamam Abu Saud, told a news conference in the West Bank city of Nablus that she took part in what she described as a plot to assassinate the area’s governor, an Abbas ally.

Abu Saud spent more than two months in jail, but said Abbas ordered her release on humanitarian grounds. Officials in Nablus say 40 others have confessed to being part of the failed plot and remain in prison, awaiting trial.

Hamas dismissed the allegations as baseless and said Abu Saud was blackmailed into appearing at the news conference. Nablus officials have released few details about the case.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, leaving the Western-backed Abbas in control of only the West Bank. Since then, Abbas has cracked down on Hamas to prevent a similar takeover in the West Bank.

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