Global campaign seeks justice for 2010 killing of East Jerusalem man
Published Tuesday 12/06/2012 (updated) 15/06/2012 17:11
Supporters of the "Killing Without Consequence" campaign rallied
in Los Angeles on June 11, 2012. Memorials were held around the
world Monday, marking the two-year anniversary of the shooting
death of Ziad Jilani in Jerusalem. (MaanImages/Jiliani family, HO)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Memorials were held around the world Monday to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of Ziad Jilani, an East Jerusalem Palestinian killed by an Israeli border policeman in 2010.
With support from a large network of activists and the Nazareth-based human rights association Meezaan, Jilani's widow has launched an international campaign to bring Russian-born Maxim Vinogradov to justice.
Moira Jilani's campaign, Killing Without Consequence, seeks to "end Israeli impunity"; she hopes indicting Vinogradov will set a standard for Israeli forces to use caution before firing on Palestinians.
Although Jilani's movement is growing, the Israeli justice system has so far not favored her late husband's case. Israeli police closed an investigation on Jan. 16, 2011 for lack of evidence. Meezaan filed an appeal, but former state prosecutor Menachem Muzaz upheld the initial ruling.
Lawyers at Meezaan assert that the testimony of eyewitnesses, as well as that of the policemen themselves, is sufficient evidence to bring Vinogradov and his commander, Shadi Kheir al-Din, to trial.
The legal team has appealed to the Israeli High Court to adjudicate on Muzaz's decision. After two delays, the Supreme Court requested that state prosecutor Yehuda Weinstein uphold or overturn Muzaz's decision by June 20.
According to his family, Jilani, then 41, was killed just after Friday prayers on June 11, 2010, while driving in traffic through the Wadi Joz neighborhood of East Jerusalem.
A stone hit Jilani's car, and he swerved into an alley where 10 policemen were standing, injuring two of them. The soldiers started shooting, injuring a five-year-old girl in a nearby car.
Jilani, meanwhile, ran into another nearby alley, where his uncle lived. Three policemen, including Vinogradov and Kheir al-Din, followed him and continued shooting. Jilani was first hit in the back by Kheir al-Din.
In Vinogradov's original testimony, provided to internal police investigators on the day of the incident, the policeman stated that Jilani continued running after first being hit, and only fell to the ground after Vinogradov's second hit.
A month after Jilani's death, however, his body was exhumed, and an autopsy revealed that he had been shot in the head at close range. In a second testimony, provided just before the body was exhumed, Vinogradov said that he had shot Jilani while he was lying on the ground in order to "neutralize" him, and not while he was running away as he had previously testified.
Vinogradov's reason, he told investigators, was that Jilani moved his hand, causing Vinogradov to fear that he had a bomb or some other weapon. But eyewitness reports and Vinogradov's own testimony stated that no one checked the body for a bomb even after Jilani had been shot in the head, or before.
Further investigations by Meezaan uncovered a slew of violent, anti-Arab slurs from Vinogradov on various social media sites, raising questions about his intentions in killing Jilani.
A week before the incident, Vinogradov responded to a Facebook post advocating "annihilation" of Turkey and the Arabs by saying, "I am with you brother, and with the help of God I will start this." That post, along with a few others, was included in Meezaan's initial appeal to the state prosecutor.
Vinogradov's lawyer, Adi Brenner, declined to comment on the case Tuesday. She has previously stated to Israeli media that "the attempt to attribute weight to banal online statements is ridiculous."
Given Vinogradov's admission that he intended to kill Jalani, Meezaan does not believe the statements are merely "banal."
The group says that the initial police investigation was inadequate, as they failed to gather any eyewitness testimonies even though the killing took place on a busy street. Meezaan collected its own testimonies a month after the incident; it found Vinogradov had placed his boot on Jilani's neck before shooting him in the head.
Jilani and her supporters believe Vinogradov must be held accountable for what many speakers at Monday's memorial in East Jerusalem called a "cold-blooded killing."
"There is at least a negligent killing here, if not much more than that, up to murder," said Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer who works with the human rights group Yesh Din. "There is definitely a criminal act here."
At issue is more than just Jilani's death.
Some believe prosecuting Vinogradov or Khair el-Din will give Israeli security forces pause before shooting Palestinians in the future -- to the benefit of civilians, but potentially a problem for soldiers' and policemen's safety.
In a response to the petition to Israel's Supreme Court, published in the Haaretz newspaper in April, Khair el-Din's lawyer, Yoni Dallal, stated that an indictment "could harm the security of the state and risk human lives, since such a decision would almost certainly constrain the security forces and could well make commanders and fighters hesitate to act with determination in similar incidents."
It is precisely this "determination" that concerns Moira Jilani and her supporters: "Right now the message is clear," said Neta Golan, an activist based in Ramallah who has helped Jilani with the campaign. "'Kill whoever you want.'"
Lawyers working on the case say that it is a particularly compelling example of unambiguous wrongdoing that must lead to a trial. The campaign hopes a prosecution will have far-reaching effects for Israeli security forces' treatment of Palestinian civilians.
"This is not just my husband's story," said Jilani in a video on her campaign's website. "This is a Palestinian issue that goes on everyday."
On June 20, state prosecutor Yehuda Weinstein will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to press charges against Vinogradov and Kheir el-Din.
If Weinstein upholds Muzaz's decision, the Meezaan legal team will face Weinstein, as well as Vinogradov's and Kheir al-Din's lawyers, in Israel's Supreme Court. There, they will determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge either man with a crime. If Weinstein overturns the decision, the two Israelis will be tried in a criminal court.
Whatever happens next, the Jilani family and their supporters say they will continue to push on.
"We will never stop until we get justice," said Iman Jilani, Ziad's sister who led a memorial in Los Angeles. The campaign hopes to set a precedent that Israeli soldiers and police will face legal consequences for shooting Palestinian civilians.
"I want Israel to be the democracy it claims to be," Moira Jilani said after the memorial. "I haven't seen that yet."