TEL AVIV (Mar. 29)
An Israel Defense Force colonel pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of ordering the brutal treatment of Palestinians in two West Bank villages in January 1988, a month after the intifada began.
Col. Yehuda Meir, who was a lieutenant colonel at the time, said he acted on “orders” from his superiors in “the military and political echelon.”
Meir has been indicted on eight counts of brutality and causing grievous bodily harm for ordering his troops to beat and break the limbs of Palestinian residents of Beita and Huwara villages.
His trial opened in a special military court in the IDF General Headquarters compound in Tel Aviv.
Meir is the highest-ranking IDF officer to be prosecuted since the Palestinian uprising erupted in the territories on Dec. 9, 1987.
The court heard testimony from a company commander, a lieutenant at the time. He said Meir explained to his men that because the prisons were full, intifada activists should not be sent to jail but should be bound and gagged and beaten with clubs on their arms and legs and left lying in the area.
Volunteers were used to execute the orders, the court was told.
The charge sheet said that in Huwara, Meir ordered a platoon to arrest 12 Palestinians and break their bones. They were bound, blindfolded and beaten with clubs, although they had not resisted arrest.
According to the indictment, the platoon commander told Meir the orders were immoral, but he was ignored.
The beatings came to light largely because a foreign television news crew filmed a similar episode.
Several soldiers were charged and Meir, by then a full colonel, was relieved of his duties by the IDF chief of staff and placed on unpaid leave.