The Jaffa Military Court sentenced three soldiers from the Kfir Brigade to active prison terms ranging between 67 days and five and a half months after finding them guilty of assaulting a Palestinian man in the city of Hebron. Though the prosecution put forward a grave indictment against the troops, the court only
convicted them on a small number of the charges brought against them.
Two of the soldiers are expected to finish serving their sentences in the coming days, as they had been in detention for the duration of the court proceedings – more than four and a half months. The third soldier, who was sentenced to 67 days jail time, will not return to prison, as he has already served out his sentence. The soldiers were also demoted one rank, despite the prosecution's demand they be demoted to the rank of private.
The incident took place in January 2008. The three combat soldiers, all members of the Lavi Battalion of the Kfir Brigade, were accused of brutally assaulting a Palestinian taxi station dispatcher – forcing the man to undress and beating him unconscious. The soldiers acknowledged there had been an altercation with the dispatcher, but rejected his version of the events as 'distorted.'
The indictment served against the soldiers charged them with aggravated assault, aggravated abuse and intent to harm.
But the military court partially rejected the dispatcher's testimony, saying the evidence corroborated the soldiers' claim that a number of the charges brought against them were false. One soldier was convicted on two counts of abuse, the second soldier was convicted on one count of abuse, and the third soldier was convicted of aggravated assault.
Although the military prosecution sought to demote all of the soldiers to the rank of private, the demand was rejected by the court, which determined that the soldiers would only be demoted by one rank – two of them from staff sergeant to sergeant and the third from sergeant to corporal.
The 'Yesh Din' human rights organization slammed the court's ruling and said the lenient punishment proves once again that the military courts system was not genuinely interested in judging soldiers according to the letter of the law. The organization said it was "doubtful" that the IDF could be trusted with investigating and judging its own soldiers in regards to allegations of abuse.