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Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Israel finally agrees to pay £1.75m compensation to family of British man shot dead by Gaza soldier five years ago

DAILY MAIL, 22nd April 2008

By Matthew Kalman

The family of a British filmmaker shot dead by Israeli troops is set to receive £1.75 million in compensation from the Israeli government.

Prize-winning documentary maker James Miller, 34, was killed by soldiers guarding a security zone in the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on May 2, 2003.
He left a wife, Sophy, and two young children, Alexander and Lottie.

The £1.75 million payout to Mr Miller's widow and children was reported by an Israeli newspaper yesterday. It comes after five years of mounting legal pressure on Israel to accept responsibility for the fatal shooting.

The soldier who shot Mr Miller, Lieutenant Hib al-Heib, was cleared by an Israeli army inquiry then promoted to Captain.

Mr Miller's widow, elderly parents, brother John and sister Katie have pursued the case even though the military probe decided the soldiers on patrol that day had not acted beyond their orders.

His family filed a suit against the State of Israel for murder, and in 2006 a British inquest ruled the killing a murder.

A hearing on the case is set in the Tel Aviv District Court for May 13.

The filmmaker's brother John told the Mail from his home in Paris that the family had not yet been officially notified of the Israeli decision and were awaiting confirmation from the foreign ministry.

"We haven't had an offer," he said. "We do have a scheduling hearing due for May 13 and I suspect because of that they have leaked this."

He said the family had already spent more than £1 million recovering his brother's body, carrying out the autopsy and employing expert witnesses to pursue the case.
The family had sued for compensation in excess of £3 million based on loss of earnings, but "it has never really been about the money," he said.

"It's five years since this happened. You have to reach a point where there's a lot to be said for settling because it takes up an incredible amount of time and effort.

"My parents are both retired should be enjoying life. They have seen the film of James being killed more than 500 times, and that's really not ideal for their situation and not the way to spend their retirement.

"We are quite motivated to end this. I don't imagine we would do it regardless of money, but it certainly isn't the real issue," he said.

"It's about being able to move on five years later rather than having the prospect of another few years in court," he added.

After a lengthy Israeli investigation, officials in Jerusalem originally decided in March 2005 not to press criminal charges against those involved because of insufficient evidence.

The commander of the Israeli force that shot and killed Mr Miller faced disciplinary proceedings for illegal use of firearms, but was exonerated.

An Israeli army inquiry found that Mr Miller's death was a "tragic accident."

An army spokesman claimed that the Londoner "walked right into the middle of an ongoing battle" with heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in bad light.

But John Miller said the footage his brother shot that night suggested a different story.

"My brother was filmed going out of the building holding a torch which he was shining on a white flag," he said.

"The film shows my brother, reporter Saira Shah and another journalist walking from the building shouting they were British journalists in English and in Arabic.

"They reach a point where a shot is fired and it's silent apart from that shot.

"They stand still, holding the flag. Then 10-15 seconds later there is a another shot – the one that killed my brother. You see the flag dropped and a great deal of commotion and shouting."

"There were no other shots except for those two and I believe they both came from the Israeli side," he said.

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