Kurd Protesters Were Shot in Back by Israeli Guards
By Imre Karacs in Berlin
THE INDEPENDENT 03/05/1999
The investigation into the fatal shooting of four Kurdish protesters in front of the Israeli general consulate in Berlin last month was plunged into controversy yesterday amid German hints that the Israelis lied about the event.
According to German witnesses, the Israeli guards fired at demonstrators as they were fleeing the building. Two of the four victims were shot from behind, say the German policemen who had been on guard.
Israel had always maintained that its guards had fired in self-defence, fearing that the building was about to be stormed by demonstrators enraged by the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party.
Kurdish newspapers had reported that Israel's secret service, Mossad, had played a role in the affair.
Kurdish protesters occupied several diplomatic missions throughout Europe, smashing furniture and holding some diplomats hostage. Israel has said its guards opened fire in Berlin because the consulate was about to be overrun.
But yesterday, speaking before a committee of Berlin's regional parliament, Hansjurgen Karge, the state prosecutor leading the investigation, said the Israeli account did not tally with statements of German policemen. Due to the "contradictions", he could not confirm the Israeli view that the Kurds were shot in self-defence.
Mr Karge said German police had reported that the two Israeli guards had opened fire on the crowd outside the building, and not within the consulate, as the Israelis said. While Israel claims its guards shot in the air, or aimed at protesters' legs, Mr Karge confirmed that two of the victims were hit in the head by bullets.
Mr Karge did not dispute the claim that self-defence must have played some role, in view of the violent nature of the protest. "But prosecutors cannot definitively say whether this was true for the whole sequence of events," he added.
Although the Greens in Berlin have called for a commission of inquiry, there is little chance of a full investigation, as the guards enjoyed diplomatic immunity and both have returned to Israel.
Ha'aretz, March 5, 1999
Berlin Doubts Israel Over Kurd DeathsBy Amichai Alperovich, Ha'aretz Correspondent and AP
BERLIN - A preliminary report by prosecutors raised doubts yesterday about whether all shots fired by Israeli guards at Kurdish demonstrators storming the Israeli consulate here last month were justifiable in self-defense, as Israel maintains.
General Prosecutor Hansjuergen Karge told a city parliamentary committee that some details of the events of Feb. 17 remain unclear, including whether guards outside the building fired at demonstrators. Four Kurds died from bullet wounds, three on the day of the protest and one last Saturday. At least 12 other Kurds were injured, the report said.
"According to the results of the investigation so far, the behavior of the Israeli security forces can in principle be justified as self-defense based on the situation," Karge said. "Whether that is so in total, we can't say."
A statement released by the Israeli embassy in Bonn said the report showed beyond any doubt that the two guards had acted in self-defense in order to protect the lives of the German and Israeli staff inside the consulate. The embassy statement added that the guards had fired in the air or at the protesters' legs and that "several points" in the report which differed from Israel's information would undoubtedly be "cleared up in the final report." Autopsy results show that of the three Kurds who died the day of the protest, one had been shot in the back, one in the back of the head, and one in the pelvis. The Kurd who died Saturday from his injuries was hit in the back of the head by a ricocheting bullet.
Karge said the investigation raised enough questions that the guards would have been the focus of a criminal investigation if they did not have diplomatic immunity. They returned immediately to Israel, however, which Karge complained made it impossible to clear up discrepancies.
An Israeli probe into the shootings, released last week by the Israeli embassy, concluded that two security guards fired a total of 17 shots in self-defense from "within the consulate," including a single warning shot outside.
But several of the Berlin officers at the scene said "one or two shots" were fired from outside of the building, prompting the police to take cover.
Many of the Kurds involved refused to cooperate to avoid incriminating themselves, Karge said. Because of those difficulties, Karge said he may never be able to present a final report.
(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved