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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"The sentence has drawn anger from the Palestinian community"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 January, 2001, 01:21 GMT
Israeli child-killer escapes jail
Israeli soldiers stand by a burning Palestinian property in Gaza after the murder of a settler
The authorities are accused of aiding and abetting settlers
A Jewish settler convicted of beating a Palestinian child to death in the West Bank four years ago has been sentenced to six months' community service by an Israeli court.

The Jerusalem District Court said a plea bargain deal was reached with Nahum Kurman taking into account his claim that he "did not mean to kill" the boy, 10-year-old Hilmi Shousha.

Thanks to God for helping me, thanks to all the people who were praying for me

Nahum Kurman
Kurman, who had already had served eight months in prison during his trial, appeared relieved about the outcome of the day's proceedings.

"Thanks to God for helping me, thanks to all the people who were praying for me, and thank God again for giving me this wonderful lawyer, Yair Golan," he said.

At the time of the killing, the Israeli authorities said he had kicked Hilmi to the ground, placed his foot on his neck and beat him on the head with a pistol butt.

The boy died in hospital a day later after suffering a head injury and fractured spinal cord.

Suspended sentence

The court said in a statement that it had sentenced Kurman to six months community service and a 15-month suspended prison term. He was also fined about $17,000.

Jewish settler gathering
Settlers have taken up the Kurman cause
The boy was apprehended by Kurman, who was security chief of the Hadar Beitar settlement, on suspicion of throwing rocks at Israeli cars.

He would have faced a prison sentence of up to 20 years if he had been convicted of murder under Israeli law.

A Palestinian human rights group said the sentence proved beyond doubt that the Israeli Government and justice system were accomplices of the settlers "in their crimes against Palestinians".

"Such sentences will encourage settlers to continue their aggression against Palestinians, dragging the region into an endless cycle of violence," the statement from Palestinian Global Dialogue and Democracy said.

Cheap life

How does he get community service? This judge gives people a licence to kill

Hilmi's father
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem called the sentence "ridiculous," accusing the judiciary of double standards.

"A Palestinians's life is cheap" the group said, and the sentence would encourage Jewish settlers "to perpetrate acts of violence toward Palestinians knowing they will enjoy immunity".

Kurman has always denied he killed Hilmi Shousha. At first he said the boy had fainted. Then he changed his story, saying he tripped while running away and his neck struck a sharp object.

Family photo of Hilmi Shousha
Hilmi Shousha died after a brutal beating
Judge Ruth Or ruled that the testimony of prosecution witnesses, such as the boy's cousin, was not credible. She also rejected the findings of the chief state pathologist, saying he had been influenced by the testimony of the other prosecution witnesses.

The court ruled that Kurman's responsibility was limited because he had tried to revive the dying child.

Sair Shousha, Hilmi's father, condemned the sentence in an interview on Israel Radio.

"He killed, he killed. How does he get community service? This judge ... gives people a licence to kill," he said.

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