PRESS RELEASE 1OTH MAY 2004
THE TRIAL BEGINS TODAY OF THE SOLDIER INDICTED FOR THE KILLING OF BRITISH STUDENT PHOTOJOURNALIST TOM HURNDALL
The Trial begins today in Israel of Sgt Idier Wahid Taysir, who is facing six charges in connection with the killing of Tom Hurndall. Tom Hurndall, the 21 year old British Student Photojournalist was fatally shot in the head as he was shepherding children to safety in Rafah, Gaza last spring. After spending 9 months in a coma, he died on 13th January this year (For more information visit www.tomhurndall.co.uk ).
Sgt Idier Wahid Taysir will be tried on six indictments : Manslaughter; Two counts of Obstruction of Justice; Incitement to False Testimony; False Testimony; Improper Conduct. He has entered a plea of not guilty to all charges at an earlier non-public hearing.
The trial is taking place at a Military Court within the Military base at Castina Junction in Ashkalon, near Tel Aviv and those called for examination today will include the Operational Commander of the indicted soldier and two members of the Military Police responsible for carrying out the Military Police Investigation.
The Mother of Tom Hurndall – Jocelyn Hurndall has flown to Israel in order to attend the proceedings which begin at 9am this morning. She will be accompanied by her Israeli lawyers – Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard; a translator and a representative of the British Consul.
Just before she left her hotel on the way to the trial this morning – Jocelyn Hurndall said:
“I accept that to have got this far is a significant achievement, indeed an historic one. There have been no trials of this magnitude relating to killings in the Occupied Territories in the three years since the Intifada - which has seen over 3,000 innocent non-combatants killed and over 40,000 seriously injured in the region. I am committed to getting to the truth about the circumstances surrounding the killing of my son.
However, it is not sufficient to have come this far, merely to attend the staging of a show trial!
We have heard representations from the indicted soldier and other colleagues in his unit, indicating that he has been ‘hung out to dry’ and that ‘he was just following orders’.
With the distinct absence of any kind of process for accountability for unlawful actions in the region and with the staggering number of deaths of non combatants – including three British Nationals within the six month period when Tom was shot, there are questions that need to be answered as to whether there are policy issues which led to Tom’s death. Indeed it is likely that there are others who share responsibility with the soldier currently in the dock.
It is for this reason that in the Supreme Court we are challenging the IDF in respect of its decision not to release crucial evidence contained in the Military Police Inquiry Report to Tom’s family; its lawyers or the British Coroner who is responsible for the inquest into Tom’s death. There is a moral and legal obligation that whatever evidence has been collected and which has led to the indictment of a soldier for manslaughter should be made available to be independently tested. This would be in line with the spirit of the consistent promises of ‘Openness and Transparency’ made by representatives of the Israeli Army and representatives of the Israeli Government including Ariel Sharon himself.
We cannot understand for example how a soldier who has himself confessed to shooting Tom, knowing he was unarmed, using a high velocity rifle with an advanced telescopic lens at a short distance of 150 metres can have intended to achieve anything other than Tom’s death. According to our own ballistic experts, such a shot which entered Tom’s forehead was a precision shot and had no other objective than to kill. That says to us that the indictment should be Murder and not manslaughter.
The initial field inquiry completely exonerated the soldier and we believe that if it was not for the dogged determination of the family and its supporters: first conducting our own investigation and then lobbying through the media and parliament against a catalogue of lies and misinformation, we would never have got this far. The campaign for justice for Tom has uncovered and exposed the serious flaws in the existing investigation process - which relied totally on the testimonies of those who were the perpetrators of the unlawful act and who were later proved to have falsified their testimonies. We are lobbying for these rules of investigation to be changed.
There is an unfortunate disconnect from the rules laid down in the Geneva Convention within the Territories and this is costing innocent lives every day. We have all watched in horror and with revulsion over the last week in Iraq, how easy it is for standards within the military to completely plummet and for inhuman acts to become the norm. There have to be rules. There has to be accountability. These unlawful acts must be stopped!”
For further information please contact Spokesperson :
Carl Arrindell on 07799 768768 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org