Defense says British activist died of malpractice by his British doctors

A pro-Palestinian British activist who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier died because of malpractice by his British doctors, a defense lawyer claimed Sunday in closing arguments in the trial of the soldier accused shooting the activist.

The soldier, who is not identified under army regulations, is accused of shooting Tom Hurndall in the head during an army operation in the Gaza Strip in April 2003. Witnesses said Hurndall, 22, was helping Palestinian children avoid Israeli tanks.

Hurndall lay in a comatose state for nine months before he died in a London hospital.

Defense lawyer Yariv Ronen said that the soldier should be acquitted of a manslaughter charge because Turndall “did not die from the wound but because the doctors, together with the family, made a very clear decision to end his life.”

Ronen said the doctors denied Hurndall antibiotic treatment and gave him an overdose of morphine.

Hurndall’s mother, Jocelyn, called the charges “outrageous,” and said her son had the best medical treatment possible.

On Sunday, the military prosecutors and the defense presented their closing arguments in the case. The verdict is expected June 26, the army said.

Hurndall, a student, was shot in the Rafah refugee camp, where he was photographing the work of the International Solidarity Movement. ISM activists often place themselves between Israeli forces and Palestinians to try to stop the Israeli military from carrying out operations.

The defense also argued that a confession from the soldier, on which the prosecution based its case, was forced.

The soldier, a Bedouin, charged the army with racism.

“If I were Jewish, I would have been freed a long time ago. It’s discrimination because I am a Bedouin,” he told Associated Press Television News.

He also said the only reason the army had charged him in the case was because the victim was British.

“If he was a Palestinian, the army would have closed the case along time ago,” the soldier complained.

Two other British citizens have been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Cameraman James Miller was shot and killed in Rafah on May 1 while filming a documentary about the impact of violence on children.

Also, Israeli soldiers shot and killed aid worker Iain Hook on Nov. 22 during a gunbattle with armed Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

However, in the more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Israeli military has arrested only a handful of soldiers for harming Palestinians or foreigners.

Jocelyn Hurndall said that while there was an investigation into her son’s death, she hoped the trial would result in a change.

“There are thousands of people who don’t have access to an investigation, and we are hoping that the outcome of this trial will mean that there will be more investigations for those who have been killed or wounded,” she said.

In addition to manslaughter, the soldier has been charged with two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of submitting false testimony, one count of obtaining false testimony and one count of unbecoming behavior.

Another soldier, Aymad Atawna, has already been sentenced to jail for lying to protect the accused soldier.

Atawna originally told investigators that Hurndall shot toward Israeli troops, but later confessed that he lied and Hurndall in fact was not armed, according to a military court ruling. The court convicted him of inappropriate conduct and sentenced him to 5 1/2 months in prison.