Israel Charges Cop with Manslaughter in Shooting of Palestinian Teen

11-23-14 Nadim Nuwara's mother
The mother (C) of Palestinian man Nadim Nuwara, who was shot dead by Israeli forces, mourns during his funeral in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 16, 2014. Ammar Awad/Reuters

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel charged a policeman on Sunday in the fatal shooting of a teenage Palestinian protester, accusing him of deliberately switching his rubber bullets for the live round that killed the youth.

The prosecutors' decision to level a charge of manslaughter rather than murder drew criticism from the boy's father, who said there was ample proof the killing was premeditated.

Nadim Nuwara, 17, was shot in the chest during a demonstration in May at which Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. A second teenage protester was killed but Israel has made no arrest in that case, citing lack of evidence as an autopsy was not carried out.

CCTV footage suggested neither youth posed any immediate threat to the troops stationed some 70 yards (64 meters) away, in that neither appeared to be throwing stones when they were shot. Their deaths stoked Palestinian fury at Israel in the weeks after U.S.-sponsored peace talks collapsed in April.

The accused, a member of the paramilitary border police, was arrested on Nov. 12. His name has not been released for publication. He denies wrongdoing in the incident, which occurred near an Israeli prison and the Palestinian town of Beitunia.

An indictment filed at Jerusalem District Court said the policeman had slipped a live bullet into his ammunition clip, which was meant to hold only non-lethal blank rounds with which to propel rubber bullets mounted separately on the rifle muzzle.

"The defendant used the blanks magazine so that his live fire, as opposed to rubber-bullet fire, would not be observed," the indictment said, adding that he had targeted Nuwara's torso "with the intent of causing him grave injury, and while anticipating the possibility that he would cause his death".

Manslaughter, killing without the clear intention to cause death, carries a maximum 20-year jail term in Israel though judges can hand down lighter sentences. Murder, killing intentionally, usually carries a life term.

"All indications show the killing was deliberate and premeditated. It was not random fire," Nuwara's father, Siam, told Reuters. "A manslaughter charge is unacceptable. What sentence might he get if the charge is manslaughter?"

Asked to explain the charge, a spokeswoman for the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office said the evidence available was insufficient for a murder indictment.

The policeman says he used rubber bullets only. His lawyer, Benny Katz, called the indictment "quite severe", and was confident he could prove his client was innocent.