Soldier formally charged with ‘needlessly killing’ terrorist

An Israeli soldier caught on video shooting a wounded Palestinian terrorist in the head as he lay on the ground appeared in a military court Tuesday as hundreds of his supporters protested outside.

Prosecutors were seeking to extend the remand of the soldier until April 7 in a case that has gripped the country and sparked political tensions.

The 19-year-old soldier's identity has been kept secret under a gag order, granted at the request of his lawyers, who have harshly criticized coverage of the event as having jeopardized their client's chances of a fair trial.

The soldier's family have also received death threats from Arab extremists since an edited video of the shooting was publicized by the far-left B'Tselem NGO.

The protesters called for the soldier's release, citing evidence they say supports his claim to have acted out of fears the terrorist was attempting to detonate an explosive device.

Military top brass have strongly condemned the soldier's actions, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has pledged that the incident will be treated with "utmost severity."

But many others – including right-wing politicians both inside and outside the coalition, as well as members of his family – say such comments amount to a public "lynching", noting that they were made before the trial even began.

Ex-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who heads the opposition nationalist Yisrael Beytenu, was among those in court in support of the soldier.

Around a dozen of the soldiers' family members were also in the public gallery, some of them in tears.

During the hearing, IDF prosecutors formally accused the soldier of killing the terrorist "without need."

"The suspicion emanating from the investigation is that the shooting was carried out intentionally and without need," prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Adoram Rigler told the court.

Defense lawyers, however, said the Arab could have had an explosive device, even though unconfirmed reports say he had been checked for a suicide belt before the shooting.

"There was no bomb-squad investigation, even if the officer kicked away the knife," said defence lawyer Ilan Katz.

The hearing wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon and the decision is expected later in the day.

AFP contributed to this report.


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