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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Soldier jailed for activist death
Tom Hurndall
Tom Hurndall died nine months after falling into a coma
An Israeli ex-soldier who killed UK peace activist Tom Hurndall in the Gaza Strip has been jailed for eight years.

Ex-sergeant Taysir Hayb was convicted of manslaughter at an Israeli military court in June for shooting Mr Hurndall, of north London, in April 2003.

He was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter and one year for obstruction of justice.

Mr Hurndall, 22, was involved in protests against the Israeli military in the Palestinian town of Rafah.

He died nine months after the shooting.

Hayb's conviction follows a lengthy campaign by Mr Hurndall's family.

It has been a very painful two years
Sophie Hurndall,
Victim's sister

His sister, Sophie Hurndall, said that while she welcomed the verdict it would not bring her brother back.

"It's a huge landmark, it's a milestone, it's the first time that a soldier's been convicted of manslaughter since the first intifada and it's obviously been a long time coming.

"It's been two years of us all working very hard at this."

His mother, Jocelyn Hurndall, said: "Eight years is really very little if one takes international law into account."

She told the ITV News Channel the family was considering a civil claim.

"From the very beginning we have experienced a lack of willingness to get to the truth, which has been deeply shocking.

"Undoubtedly this sentence brings a level of closure from a legal point but from a personal point of view I am not sure I believe in the concept of closure. I am sure this will go on forever," Mrs Hurndall said.

Family's 'determination'

Amnesty International's Kate Allen said that while the person responsible for Mr Hurndall's death had been brought to justice, it was "striking that this was almost entirely due to tireless campaigning by his family".

"The strong suspicion is that if Mr Hurndall's family had not shown utter determination to uncover the truth of their son's death, then no-one would ever have faced justice for what happened to Tom," she said.

Taysir Hayb
Taysir Hayb tried to attack journalists as he left court in June

UK Foreign Office minister Ian Pearson said the government welcomed Hayb's conviction.

He said: "We hope that the Hurndall family will draw some comfort from the conviction and sentencing of Hayb today for the unlawful death of their son."

Mr Hurndall, a Manchester Metropolitan University journalism and photography student, was in the Gaza Strip with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, which aims to oppose Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories by non-violent means.

According to witnesses, Mr Hurndall was shot in the head as he acted as a human shield, escorting children away from gunfire. The court heard Hayb fired at him from an Israeli army watchtower, using a sniper rifle with a telescopic sight.

It does give a strong message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated
Captain Hilla Gorni
Israeli army

The Israeli army initially disputed this account.

But, under pressure from Mr Hurndall's family and the British government, it ordered a full investigation which led to Hayb's indictment.

As well as manslaughter, Hayb was found guilty of obstruction of justice, incitement to false testimony, false testimony and improper conduct.

Captain Hilla Gorni of the Israeli army said the jail sentence would send out a warning to other soldiers.

"This is the harshest sentence so far that was given to a soldier who was convicted of any violent action over the events of the last few years.

"It does give a strong message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."

See Tom Hurndall in Israel before the shooting

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