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Border Police extremely close when they shot the US activist

New testimony at final hearing in Tristan Anderson's trial indicates Border Police were extremely close when they shot the US activist in the head

25 March was the final court date in the case of wounded activist Tristan Anderson against the Israeli military, a civil trial that has extended over the last four months in an attempt by Anderson’s family to compel the Israeli state to pay for his long-term care. The hearing on 25 March included significant testimony from military personnel including “Commander Sharon” [last name withheld], former commander of the Ni’lin area’s Israeli Border Police, who indicated that the Border Police were extremely close to Anderson when he was shot in the face with an Extended Range (sometimes called High Velocity) Tear Gas canister at a protest against the building of the Separation Wall in the West Bank village of Ni’ilin. Anderson, from Oakland, California, was wounded on March 13 of 2009, leaving him severely brain damaged, paralyzed on half his body, and blind in one eye.

Gabrielle Silverman, Tristan Anderson’s girlfriend and witness to his shooting, explained the family’s main reason for pursuing the civil case: “Tristan’s mother is 68 years old and his father is 74. They cannot continue to provide 24 hour care any longer. No one is trying to get rich off this lawsuit. We demand that the State pay for the long term care that Tristan needs to survive.”

At Wednesday’s court hearing, lawyers for Tristan Anderson and his family confronted the officers with a video (see youtube videos linked at the bottom of the page) taken moments after the shooting which shows Israeli forces continuing to heavily tear gas the immediate area where Anderson lay critically wounded, even as paramedics attempted to treat him. Among other questions, lawyers for the family asked the Commander to identify the various types of tear gas rounds seen falling around Tristan in the video and Commander Sharon testified that among those visible were hand thrown tear gas grenades, further indicating that the shooters, acting in blatant violation of Open Fire Regulations, were extremely close to Anderson when they shot him with the Extended Range Tear Gas.

Under police questioning, Border Police officers involved in Anderson’s shooting and others involved in the shooting of Bassem Abu Rahme - a Palestinian activist who died a few weeks after Anderson’s wounding after being shot in the chest from close range with an Extended Range Tear Gas canister in Bil’in - stated that they were instructed to shoot the tear gas from a range no nearer than 200 meters. Multiple Border Police have noted in their testimonies that use at close range is illegal and extremely dangerous, especially when shot with direct aim.  Combined Tactical Systems, the weapon’s US-based manufacturer, also warns that it is potentially deadly when shot at people from close range. According to the manufacturer, Extended Range Tear Gas is intended as an indoor barricade breaking device.  It travels at a speed of 122 meters per second with a possible outdoor range of hundreds of meters, releasing tear gas with any hard object that it ultimately strikes.

Furthermore, it is against Open Fire Regulations to shoot unprovoked, as is the allegation in this case, as witnesses argue that the demonstration was basically over when Tristan was shot, and that he was standing in a quiet area away from what was left of the main body of the crowd where no confrontation was taking place.

“This case is very clear and it is a disgrace,” said Lea Tsemel, attorney for Tristan Anderson and his family. “Border Policemen turned in affidavits that were almost word for word exactly identical to each other, then gave contradicting and unreliable testimonies when they appeared before the court. Lawyers for Anderson’s family also brought up in court the repeated incidents of military violence in Ni’lin during the period when Sharon was commander of the area’s Border Police. Five Palestinian demonstrators, including a ten-year-old boy, were shot and killed by Israeli forces between 2008 and 2009. 

Despite compelling evidence of violations of the Open Fire Regulations governing the lawful use of weapons which was presented in court and severe physical and cognitive disabilities which mean that Tristan will never live independently or work again, the state has offered no settlement option to Tristan Anderson’s family. “So far they have offered us zero,” reported Gabrielle Silverman, who has been present throughout the trial. “They actually threatened to charge us court fees.”

Silverman adds, ““There has never been a credible investigation into Tristan’s shooting. This case has been used by Israel as an excuse to smear and investigate leftists.”

ENDS

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