Spain court closes Gaza probe into Israeli officials

1st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish court closed a probe targeting Israeli officials over a deadly 2002 air raid in Gaza.

Madrid – A Spanish court on Tuesday closed a probe targeting Israeli officials for alleged crimes against humanity over a deadly 2002 air raid in Gaza.

The National Audience, the country's top criminal court, followed the recommendations of prosecutors in deciding to close the case.

Public prosecutors in April advised judge Fernando Andreu to close the probe on the grounds that the attack, which killed a suspected leader of the Islamist movement Hamas, Salah Shehadeh, and more than a dozen others, had already been under investigation by Israel.

Israel said it hoped the court's decision "will end the issue".

"Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomes Spain's high court decision to close the investigation against Israeli officials," the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Israel claimed from the onset that the process was a political attempt to abuse the Spanish justice system."

The ruling followed a decision in January by a Spanish judge to pursue a complaint against seven senior Israeli military figures over an air attack on Gaza City on 22 July 2002, which also killed 14 civilians, mainly infants and children.

The complaint, which included former defence minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer as one of its targets, was lodged with the Madrid-based judge Fernando Andreu by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The judge had decided to set up two rogatory commissions, one of which would notify the Israeli authorities about the opening of the inquiry while another was to have sought witness testimony from Palestinians.

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

This has served as the grounds for investigations by the National Court into alleged human rights abuses in other countries, from Argentina to Tibet.

But it only applies if the alleged crimes are not already subject to a legal procedure in the country involved.

Spain's lower house of parliament voted last week to restrict the judges ability investigate such cases to those that involve Spanish victims or in which the suspects are on Spanish soil.

AFP / Expatica

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