Prosecutors renew demand to shelve Gaza probe

7th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

Public prosecutors are once again recommending that investigation be shelved after a judge announced he wanted to proceed with the probe into a 2002 Israeli air raid in Gaza.

MADRID – Spanish public prosecutors appealed Wednesday a decision taken by a judge two days earlier to press ahead with a probe into a deadly Israeli air raid in Gaza in 2002, a move which angered Israel.

On Monday National Court judge Fernando Andreu said he was going ahead with the probe into the attack, which killed a leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Salah Shehadeh, and 14 other civilians, because there was no evidence that it was being adequately investigated by Israel.

But public prosecutors Wednesday once again recommended that the investigation be shelved.

They argued that "the judicial actions taken by the state of Israel should be considered to be sufficient procedures of inquiry," a judicial official told AFP.

In April, they had already recommended that Andreu shelve the complaint against former Israeli defence minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and six senior military officials because this attack had been under investigation by Israel.

Andreu agreed in January to consider the complaint lodged by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, sparking strong objections from Israel.

Spain has since 2005 assumed the principle of universal jurisdiction in alleged cases of crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism.

Andreu said Monday that he was going ahead with the probe because "no criminal investigation which could lead to the possibility of a conflict of jurisdictions has up until now arisen" in Israel.

Even if such an investigation existed in Israel, the Spanish judiciary could simultaneously probe the charges since they could be classified as war crimes, he wrote in his ruling.

Public prosecutors and military prosecutors in Israel had decided not to open a criminal inquiry and the Israeli Supreme Court had not considered a complaint over the air raid, he said.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor dismissed the judge's decision to push on with the war crimes investigation on Monday as "a cynical and baseless political manoeuvre that is completely unjustified."

"There is no evidence to support the claims. The Spanish legal system should shelve the process," he told AFP.

The majority of the 14 civilians who were killed in the air raid which dropped a one tonne bomb on Gaza were children while some 150 Palestinians were injured, according to the complaint.

In addition to Ben-Eliezer, the complaint names the then army chief of staff, General Moshe Yaalon, as well as the then head of the Israeli air force, General Dan Halutz.

It also names General Doron Almog, national security council head Giora Eiland, Michael Herzog, a defence ministry official, and Avi Dichter, director of the Shin Beth intelligence agency.

AFP / Expatica

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