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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS -
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Triangle activist to take case to Israel

Posted in the database on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005 @ 15:58:28 MST (2247 views)
by Kayce T. Ataiyero    NewsObserver  

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      Brian Avery says rehabilitation consumes much of his time today, but he said he stays involved as much as he can.
AP Photo by Sara D. Davis

Nearly two years after being shot in the face by Israeli soldiers, Chapel Hill activist Brian Avery is heading back today to argue before the Israeli Supreme Court that the accused assailants should be brought to justice.

Avery, 26, is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, a nonviolent organization that supports the Palestinian opposition to Israeli occupation. On April 5, 2003, he says, he was shot by Israeli soldiers while standing with his hands in the air on a street in the West Bank town of Jenin.

A bullet pierced Avery's face, shattering his jaw and nose. He spent nine weeks in an Israeli hospital before coming home to recuperate. He said he has endured numerous facial reconstruction surgeries.

The Israeli army conducted an internal command inquiry into the shooting. It concluded there was no evidence that Avery was shot by Israeli soldiers. Such inquiries are notoriously unreliable, Avery said.

The Israeli government paid for Avery's medical expenses while he was receiving treatment in the country, he said. But payments stopped once he was discharged from the hospital.

Avery has filed a petition in the Israeli Supreme Court asking that it order the government to conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting. His case is scheduled to be heard Monday.

Avery said Tuesday that he submitted two previous requests to the government for an investigation, both of which he said were ignored. He said his latest action is the equivalent of an injunction to force the court to make a decision in the case.

Ideally, Avery said, the court will order the government to conduct an investigation, leading to an indictment for the soldiers responsible. He said he is guardedly optimistic.

"You want to be hopeful, but the judicial system is not the fairest in the world by any means, and so in similar cases like this, things have gone nowhere. The fact that I have even gotten this far, I think, is because I am a U.S. citizen," he said.

Despite his feelings about the Israeli legal system, Avery said he felt it was important to push for an investigation. "If nothing else, it is just to try to publicly make the point that a criminal act has occurred and nothing has been done about it," he said.

Avery will be in Israel for a couple of weeks. In addition to the criminal case, he also has plans to file a civil suit against the government. He said he hasn't hashed out all of the details of the civil case but plans to ask for compensation for his injuries.

It may be some time before Avery is free to return to international activism. Much of his time is consumed with his rehabilitation, he said.

But he said he stays involved as much as he can, motivated by a strong desire to see an end to the conflict.

"Anybody would want to be hopeful for the future, but you have to be fairly pragmatic about it and realize that a long-term, sustainable solution for a relatively peaceful end to the conflict might be a bit off," he said.

Staff writer Kayce T. Ataiyero can be reached at 932-2004 or kataiyer@newsobserver.com.



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