26 April 2011 | Rachel Corrie Foundation
In another round of last minute maneuvering, attorneys for the State in Corrie vs. State of Israel requested that testimony from their highest-ranking witness be postponed. Former Brigade Commander Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz, who was scheduled to testify on April 27, will not testify until May 22.
The witness was originally scheduled to testify on May 22, but on April 17, just before the court recessed for Israel’s Passover holiday, the State filed an emergency request to move Zuaretz’s testimony forward by nearly a month. Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon granted the government motion, without hearing from the Corrie family’s lawyers, citing availability of the witness as the main factor in his ruling.
Only after the court granted this request did the State provide Corrie family lawyers with Zuaretz’s five-page witness affidavit, though the document was signed nearly three weeks earlier.
Attorney Hussein Abu Hussein, who represents the Corrie family, opposed the State’s April 17 request and filed motion for reconsideration, citing due process violations. He indicated there was inadequate time to prepare for the witness given the expanded scope of the newly acquired affidavit and the delay in receiving it. The court denied his motion and granted the State’s request for the hearing to occur Wednesday, April 27.
However, the day before he was to appear, the State again requested a change from the court, citing the witness’ lack of availability due to a new scheduling conflict; an appointment with hired home movers. Judge Gershon rescheduled Zuaretz’s appearance for the original May 22 date. Such last-minute maneuvering is not unusual in the case.
In 2003, Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade. Troops under his command were responsible for military actions on March 16, 2003, that resulted in the killing of American peace activist Rachel Corrie in Rafah. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness and is, possibly, the highest ranking Israeli military officer to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding Israeli military actions against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.