October 13, 2010

Israeli official who investigated killing of American girl didn't visit the scene or question the key witness

Ma'an - HAIFA – The military official charged with investigating Rachel Corrie's killing in Gaza testified Friday that he had not been to the site of the killing because he thought it was dangerous, the Rachel Corrie Foundation said.

Cindy and Craig Corrie have filed a civil suit against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of their daughter, who was crushed to death in Rafah on 16 March 2003 by a bulldozer while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home by Israeli forces.

Head of the Military Police Special Investigative Unit Shalom Michaeli testified at Haifa District Court that he could have gone to the site of Rachel's killing in an armored vehicle but had chosen not to because it was dangerous and the terrain had changed, a statement from the foundation said.

The statement referred to several other flaws in the investigation which surfaced during Michaeli's testimony. The investigator said he ordered only a partial transcript of radio transmissions because he did not think it important to transcribe the full audio. Further, a video recording of the incident revealed that the camera operator panned away from the scene minutes before Corrie was killed, but Michaeli said he had not thought it relevant to question the operator. The investigator testified in a written affidavit that when he inspected the bulldozer which killed Corrie he found no traces of blood, but told the court Friday the vehicle could have been washed "or even painted" before he inspected it.

Craig Corrie said he was struck by Michaeli's failure "to look for evidence, to secure evidence, to resolve conflicting evidence, and to turn evidence over to this court. This is not what we and the U.S. government were promised by the government of Israel when Rachel was killed and it is not what we will accept now."

The commander of a second bulldozer present when Corrie was killed also testified Friday, and said he did know how Corrie was hurt, or remember much about the incident. The foundation noted that this contradicted a detailed affidavit he signed eight weeks ago.

Court grants soldiers anonymity

The court issued a decision Thursday to allow soldiers to testify behind a screen in court. The driver of the bulldozer that killed the 23-year-old will be granted anonymity under the order. Judge Oded Gershon ruled that the commander of the unit and the second soldier in the bulldozer that hit Corrie would testify in plain view, as their faces were already publicly known, the foundation said.

State attorneys argued that secrecy measures were necessary to protect the soldiers and prevent their images from being circulated, while the Corrie family's lawyers said the move infringed on the right to an open, fair and transparent trial.

The foundation noted that the request was filed just 48 hours before the first soldier's testimony. A request that the family could see the witnesses, even if the public could not, was rejected, but the foundation said lawyers for the Corrie family would appeal the decision to Israel's Supreme Court.

"While Rachel stood in front of a wall to protect the two families huddled behind it, the state is now making the soldiers hide behind a wall that denies us the opportunity to see them," said Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother. "The State of Israel has been hiding for over seven years. Where is the justice?"

The trial began in March 2010, when Corrie's family presented witnesses, including several of her International Solidarity Movement colleagues who witnessed her killing.


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