updated 6/27/2005 8:39:41 AM ET 2005-06-27T12:39:41

A military court convicted an Israeli soldier of manslaughter Monday in the killing of a pro-Palestinian British activist in 2003.

The defendant, Wahid Taysir, who no longer is in the army, was accused of shooting Tom Hurndall in the head during an army operation in the Gaza Strip in April 2003.

Witnesses said Hurndall, 22, was helping Palestinian children avoid Israeli tanks. Hurndall was in a coma for nine months before dying in a London hospital.

Taysir’s lawyer, Yariv Ronen, claimed Hurndall died because of malpractice by British doctors.

The military court found that Taysir shot Hurndall with a sniper rifle using a telescopic sight. It said there was no basis for the claim of malpractice and added that Taysir gave a “confused and even pathetic” version of events to the court.

20-year sentence possible
Taysir also was convicted of obstruction of justice, one count of submitting false testimony, obtaining false testimony and unbecoming behavior. He faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced in August.

Hurndall’s sister, Sophie Hurndall, praised the verdict but said the army must change its practices.

“This kind of thing needs to stop happening. Until that has changed ... we won’t really have won,” she told Sky News TV.

She said the Hurndall family had little contact with Israeli authorities during the trial and claimed there had been a “systematic process” of covering up the shooting.

Hurndall, a student, was shot in the Rafah refugee camp, where he was photographing the work of the International Solidarity Movement. ISM activists often place themselves between Israeli forces and Palestinians to try to stop the Israeli military from carrying out operations.

Arab Israeli soldier
The defense also argued that a confession from the soldier, on which the prosecution based its case, was forced. Taysir, a member of Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority, charged the army with racism, saying he was prosecuted because he is an Arab and his victim was a foreigner.

Two other British citizens have been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting. Cameraman James Miller was shot and killed in Rafah on May 2003 while filming a documentary about the impact of violence on children.

Also, Israeli soldiers shot and killed aid worker Iain Hook in November 2002 during a gunbattle with armed Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

However, in the more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence, the Israeli military has arrested only a handful of soldiers for harming Palestinians or foreigners.

Another soldier, Aymad Atawna, already was sentenced to jail for lying to protect Taysir.

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