The Jerusalem Post
July 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The special military court convicted Lt. Col. Omri Burberg and his soldier, Staff Sgt. (res.) Leonardo Corea Thursday for unsuitable, threatening behavior towards a Palestinian.

The incident happened nearly two years ago in Nil'in when the soldier fired a rubber bullet at the feet of a bound Palestinian and his commander looked on as it happened.

Burberg, former commander of Battalion 71 in the Armed Coprs was convicted for attempted threats and Corea for illegally using a weapon. Both were convicted for inappropriate behavior.

The convictions will appear on the criminal records of both the soldiers.

The 2009 shooting occurred during protests by residents of Nil'in and their supporters against the construction of the West Bank security barrier on their land.

The barrier cuts them off from farmland belonging to them on its "Israeli side."

One of the Palestinians detained that day was Ashraf Abu Rahme. He was bound and blindfolded when the battalion commander, Lt.-Col. Omri Borberg and the soldier, identified only as "Lamed," spotted him.

Borberg started to speak to Abu Rahme in Hebrew, but the detainee said he did not understand. The officer did not believe him and decided to frighten him into talking Hebrew by telling his aide that they should shoot him.

The aide allegedly misunderstood Borberg's intention and opened fire with a rubber-coated steel bullet at point-blank range, wounding Abu Rahme in his toe.

The incident, which was caught on camera, resulted in a case with the military investigation police and exchanges of blame between the commander and his soldier.

The case ended in the dismissal of Lt. Col. Borberg from his post as battalion commander and a relatively light indictment of unfit behavior against Borberg and Corea.

After the initial case four human rights organizations started a petition demanding a more serious charge against the two suspects than the one that Mandelblitt brought in the indictment.

The petitioners suspect that Borberg meant for the soldier to shoot the Palestinian.

The court agreed that Borberg's conduct was improper but he had not intended for the soldier to shoot Abu Ashraf and his conduct lacked the cruelty and evil that might have justified charging him with abusing the detainee.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had punished Borberg by stripping him of his command and sending him to serve as an instructor.

B’Tselem, which first released the video documenting the shooting, said in response that the conviction in the Ni’lin shooting case is important both as measure of justice for the victim, as well as for the deterrent message it sends to soldiers and commanders.

The military must now act decisively and proactively to ensure that the far too common phenomenon of ill treatment of Palestinian detainees is not tolerated.


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