Frenchman guilty of defamation in Mohammed al-Dura case

Frame from France 2 footage showing Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura under fire in Gaza (Sept 2000) The pictures of Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura under fire in Gaza were shown around the world in 2000

A French media activist has been found guilty of defamation for saying the TV channel France 2 staged a video report that accused Israeli troops of killing a Palestinian boy in Gaza in 2000.

An appeals court in Paris fined Philippe Karsenty 7,000 euros (£5,935). He called the verdict "outrageous".

Mr Karsenty claimed in 2004 that a France 2 film of the death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura was bogus.

The facts behind its report have been the subject of dispute for many years.

The image of Mohammed al-Dura became a symbol of opposition to Israeli military occupation and galvanised the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, which began two days before.

'Relief'

The France 2 report showed Mohammed al-Dura shielded by his father Jamal as the pair were apparently caught in a gunbattle between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants on 30 September 2000.

Jamal survived the incident but the France 2 film showed what appeared to be the boy's lifeless body at the end of the report, which was aired around the world.

Start Quote

We are ready whenever Israel wants to go for a professional investigation following international standards”

End Quote Charles Enderlin France 2 Jerusalem correspondent

The Israeli military initially apologised. But soon afterwards, an investigation raised doubts about France 2's version of events, saying it was more likely that the child had been hit by bullets fired by Palestinians.

Last month, an Israeli government investigation concluded that raw footage of the incident provided no evidence to support France 2's assertion that Mohammed al-Dura was hit by Israeli bullets during a battle with Palestinian militants, or even that he and his father were harmed.

It suggested that the footage broadcast by France 2 might have been staged, noting the apparent lack of blood in appropriate places at the scene and that the boy appeared to raise his arm after he was reported to have died.

"Contrary to the report's claim that the boy is killed, the committee's review of the raw footage showed that in the final scenes, which were not broadcast by France 2, the boy is seen to be alive," it said.

Mr Karsenty, who runs the French media watchdog group, Media-Ratings, accused France 2 in 2004 of broadcasting a staged scene as news. He says the footage of the gun battle was real, but not the images showing Mohammed and Jamal al-Dura being shot.

A court ruled against Mr Karsenty in 2006, but the verdict was overturned on appeal in 2008. France 2 appealed that decision at a higher court, which ruled in its favour on Wednesday and fined Mr Karsenty.

Philippe Karsenty speaks to reporters in Paris (22 May 2013) Philippe Karsenty runs the French media watchdog group, Media-Ratings

"I am serene because I know the truth will come out,'' Mr Karsenty said after being convicted. "Despite 15 bullets not one drop of blood was on their clothes, their bodies, the wall they were leaning against."

France 2's Jerusalem correspondent Charles Enderlin, who narrated the report said the result was "a relief" but did not put the matter to rest.

"We are ready whenever Israel wants to go for a professional investigation following international standards," he told the Associated Press.

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which governs Gaza, said the ruling confirmed that the Israeli authorities had lied about the incident.

"They deceive and cover their crimes in front of the media and the world," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Israeli government spokesman Yigal Palmor said its position remained unchanged.

"It is improbable, not to say impossible, that the bullets which hit Jamal and Mohammed al-Dura came from the Israeli position," Mr Palmor told AP. "Where they did come from remains subject to many hypotheses, though none can be proven."

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