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Still too lenient? Israeli cop who killed Palestinian teen gets sentence doubled to 18 months

Doubling the sentence of an ex-Israeli cop who killed an unarmed Palestinian is rare, as the courts always seek to be more lenient, but 18 months in jail will hardly deter the next shooter, a Haaretz correspondent told RT.

Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday doubled the prison sentence of an Israeli police officer, Ben Deri, who was initially sentenced to nine months under a plea bargain struck with the Jerusalem District Court in April. The decision to increase Deri’s sentence to 18 months was surprising, because the Israeli justice system usually looks for loopholes in lethal use of force crimes against unarmed Palestinians, a senior defense and political commentator and columnist for Haaretz, Amir Oren, told RT.

“When it comes down to the courts, they always find ways to pass more lenient sentences. They find mitigating circumstances. One can always find such circumstances,” Oren said. “After all, this is a conscript, a soldier, who was drafted and then had to police the West Bank and encountered demonstrators. One can always find a context in which it can… be explained away.”

After a plea bargain was struck with the prosecution in April, the district court dropped the original charge of manslaughter against Deri, who was instead found guilty of causing death by negligence for firing live ammunition at Nadim Nuwara, 17, at the Beitunia checkpoint near Ramallah in 2014.

The killing sparked an outcry after CCTV footage appeared to show Nawara posing no direct threat to anyone at the moment of the fatal shooting. In fact, the teenager was some distance away from the West Bank protest. The initial verdict was seen as weak by Palestinians, who demanded two years in prison. Critics of the verdict believe that Deri intentionally traded the rubber bullets for live fire to strike the teenager.

In passing their sentence in April, the judges noted that a nine-month sentence was severe enough for a cop who had no previous criminal record and was described as “an excellent police officer.” On Sunday, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the initial “sentence does not give sufficient expression to the value of the person’s life cut short by Deri, nor to the considerations underlying the obligation to respect the principle of purity of arms.”

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Despite the decision, Oren believes the Israeli justice system is not designed to deter further Israeli use of deadly force against Palestinians.

“There is no deterrence against the next shooter, against the next soldier, who will innocently or not so innocently discharge a weapon at a demonstrator, who may indeed have thrown a rock at him a few minutes earlier, but when he was shot posed no danger to anybody,” he said. “Obviously, had it been a Palestinian, he would not have been let off so leniently.”

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