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Haaretz: “Judge orders probe over Palestinian cameraman hurt in Bil’in”

by Meron Rapaport, October 10th

A military judge ordered to open an inquiry into an affair regarding a Palestinian cameraman who was wounded after soldiers arrested him during a demonstration against the separation fence in the village of Bil’in over the weekend.

Witnesses said that Border Police troops had beaten the cameraman, but the army says the man was hurt when a piece of communications equipment hit him in the back of the jeep he was being held in.

Cameraman Imad Bornat, himself a resident of Bil’in, has been documenting the protests in the village since they began around a year and a half ago.

The photographer works for Reuters, as well as other photography agencies, and his work was featured in the movie “Bil’in Habibti” directed by Shai Pollack, which won an award for documentaries at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

On Friday, Bornat was arrested during a protest on suspicions of assaulting Border Police troops and hurling rocks at them. According to the troops’ testimony in court, Bornat was holding his camera in one hand, while bombarding them with rocks using the other.

But military Judge Shlomo Katz decided to free the cameraman during a hearing over the affair. The cameraman’s release has been postponed until the prosecution can decide whether to contest the ruling or indict Bornat.

Bornat’s attorney denies all charges waged against the cameraman, and said the video footage he took will prove his innocence. The attorney added that Bornat was attacked by the troops. But the army says he was hurt when communications equipment fell on him while he was en route to the police station. Bornat was later taken to a hospital to receive medical attention.

The military judge said the cameraman still looked injured during the hearing, five days after he was arrested, raising doubt regarding the authenticity of the troops’ version of the events.

The judge added that the evidence presented to him does not clearly indicate how Bornat was injured, or how he could have been hurt by the radio equipment. Katz said he believes it is necessary to conduct a more thorough probe into the matter.

Director Pollack and artist David Reeb are set to write a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Wednesday, signed by dozens of artists, journalists and cultural figureheads protesting Bornat’s arrest.

According to the letter, “Bornat’s video footage shows the arbitrary and routine violence committed by Border Police and the army against the protesters, and especially against the residents of the village of Bil’in.”

The letter further condemns the army, saying, “it is clear that the army and the police have an interest in preventing him from filming.”