Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Spain shelves probe into Israeli crimes in Gaza

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:21:41 GMT

This July 23, 2002 photo shows Palestinians gathering outside the rubble of a Gaza house destroyed in an IAF strike that killed Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh and 14 others, including seven children.

Spain's National Court has turned down a request by The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights to investigate a 2002 bombing by Israel in the Gaza Strip.

The report on Tuesday comes a day after court papers announced that the country's highest court would try seven Israelis, including a former defense minister, for bombing that killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade and 14 others.

Seven children were among those killed in the July 22 attack that left more than another 150 injured.

Judge Fernando Andreu had argued that it could constitute a crime against humanity, which allows the persecution of the foreigners under Spanish law.

The suspects named by Andreu included former Israeli defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, currently serving as the industry ministry, and six current or former army officers or security officials.

The case had created some diplomatic tension between Spain and Israel.

The decision is in line with a preliminary approval by parliament of legislation limiting the right of Spanish judges to hold trials on the world stage.

Israeli Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman ridiculed the Palestinian plaintiffs' "cynical" efforts to "exploit the Spanish judicial system in order to advance a political agenda against Israel."

He expressed Tel Aviv's conviction that “the Spanish government and judicial system will do their utmost" to stop the proceedings.

Under the new legislation, the Spanish National Court can only investigate in cases where the victims or the charged parties are Spanish citizens.

The development comes as Israel's devastating winter military offensive on the densely populated enclave prompted the UN to hold unprecedented public hearings in Gaza City and Geneva this week following an international outcry over war crimes during the conflict.

The non-stop air, land and sea strikes on the impoverished Palestinian territory left over 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis -- 10 soldiers and three civilians.