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Thursday Sept. 9, 2010 10:48 AM (EST+7)

RAMALLAH, September 9 (JMCC) - An Israeli soldier found guilty of manslaughter in the 2003 death of British activist Tom Hurndall was released Wednesday, after serving three quarters of his sentence.

Agt. Taysir Hayb spent six of the eight-year sentence that he received in 2005 in prison.  The early release, secured last month, came at the behest of the Southern Command military tribunal, headed by Col. Erez Porat, who claim that Hayb has been sufficiently rehabilitated.

“[The committee] decided to accept our opinion that he is no longer a threat to our community,” Hayb’s attorney told

Thomas Hurndall, then aged 22, was shot photographing a protest by the activist group, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM),  in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Hurndall died after spending nine months in a coma.

Hayb, a then 20-year-old soldier with the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion, was stationed in the military watchtower at the scene. He was found guilty by a military court of violating regulations in shooting Hurndall, and charged with manslaughter. Hayb was also convicted of false testimony and obstruction of justice.

His attorney told on Wednesday that good behavior throughout his sentence had contributed to his early release. “They took into consideration that while he was in jail he didn’t do anything wrong, he participated in groups and showed anger control. It was the opinion of the jail and the officers.”

Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit had opposed the release on the basis that it may cause damage to Israel’s relations with the United Kingdom.

Hayb’s attorney denied that this was a valid reason for stopping the former soldier’s release. “This is not about relationship between Britain and Israel, what we need to think about is the soldier and his rehabilitation.”

George Rishmawi, co-founder of the ISM movement, says it is the initial sentence given to the soldier that is insufficient. “[Hayb] killed somebody who was posing no threat to the soldier. There are eye witnesses who say that Tom was helping to remove children from the firing range when he was shot.”

Rishmawi attributes the shortened sentence to the Israeli government’s protection of its soldiers. “Most acts against Palestinians go uninvestigated,” he says. “The fact that Tom was an international had an effect, but it is not always enough.”

Rachel Corrie, another ISM activist, was crushed under a bulldozer, as she sought to stop the Israeli military from destroying Palestinian homes in Gaza in 2003. Though her case is currently in civil court, “there is no official independent investigation,” says Rishmawi. “It is this that led to Hayb’s sentencing in Tom’s case”.

Tom’s mother Jocelyn Hurndall told ISM London that: “this reduced sentence comes at a time when the world is becoming more skeptical about Israel’s investigations into its own actions. It’s a reminder of Israel’s disregard for international law and opinion.”






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