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Harsher Term in Activist’s Killing Sought

August 30, 2005

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The Israeli army has appealed the eight-year prison term given to a soldier convicted of killing a British pro-Palestinian activist, saying in a statement Tuesday that it is seeking a harsher sentence.

Sgt. Taysir Hayb was convicted in June of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years for shooting Tom Hurndall in the head during an army operation in the Gaza Strip in April 2003. He was jailed for an additional year for obstruction of justice for attempting to cover up his actions in testimony to investigators.

``The prosecution appealed the light nature of the sentence for manslaughter and is requesting a meaningful and recognizable increase,″ the military statement said.

Witnesses said that at the time of the shooting Hurndall, 22, was helping Palestinian children avoid Israeli tanks. The wounded man lay in a coma for nine months before dying in a London hospital.

The case was the first in which a soldier was found guilty of killing a foreign citizen during more than four years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Hayb, a member of Israel’s Bedouin Arab minority, faced up to 20 years in prison. The head judge, Col. Nir Aviram, said the judges handed down a lighter sentence after considering the difficult combat situation Hayb faced at the time and the fact that Hayb has only a seventh-grade education.

``He was in a tense and very dangerous combat zone, but he killed an innocent man without any justification and in complete contradiction to firing orders,″ read the court judgment.

Hurndall was a member of the International Solidarity Movement, whose activists often place themselves between Israeli forces and Palestinians to try to stop the Israeli military from carrying out operations, ignoring orders to leave no-go areas. Israel says the protesters are endangering themselves and the soldiers with their activities.

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