Arab B’Tselem activist testifies against Elor Azariya

An Arab activist of the radical leftist NGO B'Tselem who filmed Elor Azariya shooting a wounded terrorist in Hevron in March testified against the soldier at the Jaffa military court on Wednesday morning.

The activist, Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, appeared in addition to other Arabs who filmed the event. In the incident Azariya shot the 21-year-old terrorist Abdul Fatah al-Sharif who, together with an accomplice, minutes earlier stabbed and moderately wounded another soldier.

Azariya, who is on trial for manslaughter, has repeatedly argued he shot over concerns the terrorist was moving to detonate a bomb belt. It has been confirmed by numerous sources that concerns the terrorist had explosives hidden under his unseasonably warm coat had not been ruled out.

Abu Shamsiyeh, a Hevron shoemaker who volunteers for B'Tselem, took the stand to testify against Azariya, and in the process an important detail regarding a past connection with the soldier was raised.

As he entered the courtroom Abu Shamsiyeh was photographed repeatedly making the "V" hand gesture for "victory," a hand movement which ironically enough is often made by jailed Arab terrorists.

"My wife and I were at home that morning," he said on the stand. "I heard gunfire, I went out quickly and I grabbed a camera. My wife was behind me. I reached the street and I saw a guy on the ground in a black coat. I heard another voice and I saw another guy lying down."

"I directed the camera at him, I started to film seconds after I heard the gunfire. With this small camera, by Panasonic, I filmed the incident," Abu Shamsiyeh said.

The B'Tselem activist said, "after I filmed the video I told a female B'Tselem activist that I had important footage but I'm in Tel Rumeida – a closed military zone. I sent her the memory card with my small son. CID (the army's Criminal Investigation Division – ed.) called me for an investigation and they asked me to bring the original card."

"I told the CID investigator that day that this is the original material and I didn't add anything. I didn't change anything in the video. I'm not a photographer and my business is in shoes. I volunteer without reimbursement for B'Tselem. My home is around 30 meters (just under 100 feet) from the scene of the incident. I didn't know that an incident like this would happen."

Activist's son arrested by Azariya

Azariya's lawyer Eyal Baserglick then questioned the Arab activist, revealing a connection between the shoemaker and Azariya.

"Is it true that your 17-year-old son Aouni was arrested by the accused (Azariya) and the deputy platoon commander on 2.2.16, even before the incident?," asked Baserglick, mentioning a date in early February predating the incident by just over a month.

Abu Shamsiyeh did not deny the arrest, but claimed he was unaware Azariya was involved.

"My son was arrested and I don't know by who exactly from the army, I don't know what was attributed to him. He returned home after he was arrested. We live in Tel Rumedia so it is expected that every one of us will be arrested. If there was something against my son he would have been tried," claimed the activist.

In his comments Abu Shamsiyeh also tried to explain why the film was broken up into short clips, saying, "I also transferred the video to Reuters. I didn't film continuously because at the start the zoom wasn't in focus. Most of our videos are not continuous."

Baserglick cast doubt on Abu Shamsiyeh's innocence and reliability given the blatant anti-Israeli slant of the radical B'Tselem organization he works for.

At the military court hearing he pointed out that B'Tselem's latest report issued on May 25 was entitled: "The Occupation’s Fig Leaf: Israel’s Military Law Enforcement System as a Whitewash Mechanism."


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