Bulldozer driver testimony underscores lack
of transparency in Corrie trial
Voice behind screen says soldiers don't stop work.
Haifa, Israel - The bulldozer driver who struck and killed Rachel Corrie in March 2003, in Rafah, Gaza, testified for the first time Thursday in the civil lawsuit filed by the Corrie family against the state of Israel, but did so under extraordinary protective measures that continue to underscore the lack of transparency in the investigation as well as the trial process.
The driver, Y.P., whose name was not released, is a 38-year-old Russian immigrant who came to Israel in 1995. He was the sole witness for the day and gave his testimony over four hours behind a makeshift partition, a measure the state claimed was necessary to protect his security. Attorneys for the Corries requested that the family be allowed to see the driver even if the public could not, but their appeals were denied.
"We were disappointed not to see the whole human being," said Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother. "It is a personal affront that the state's attorneys and Israeli government, on the basis of security, chose to keep our family from seeing the witness."
Scores of journalists, human rights observers and members of the public were shut out of the proceedings Thursday. The courtroom has only two long rows of seats, nearly half of which were held for the first time by observers apparently from the State Attorney's office and Ministry of Defense.
In over four hours of often confused testimony, Y.P. seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit signed in April. He could not remember basic facts, such as the date of Rachel's killing or time of day it happened. He repeatedly contradicted his own statements on the stand and testimony given to military police investigators in 2003.
Highlights of testimony include the following:
- Y.P stated that after he drove over Rachel and backed up, she was located between his bulldozer and the mound of earth that he had pushed, corroborating photographic evidence and testimony from international eyewitnesses given to the court in March. His testimony calls into question that of the commander inside this same bulldozer, whose written affidavit states that Rachel's body was located in a different location, on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. In court, Y.P. was asked if based on this contradiction he wanted to change his testimony. He firmly stated no.
- In testimony to military police investigators only three days after the incident, Y.P. said the blind spot in front of the bulldozer was 3 meters. In contradicting court testimony, he claimed the blind spot was 30 meters--ten times the distance first stated.
- Y.P. knew about regulations that the bulldozer was not to work within 10 meters of people. He was aware civilians were present, but said he was given orders to continue working. He said I' m just a soldier. It was not my decision.
- He claimed he did not see Rachel before the event. Nor did he recall seeing her specifically at all that day, despite the fact that she had protested the bulldozer's activity for several hours and was the only female activist wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket.
Following the driver's testimony, Cindy Corrie stated, "It was very difficult not to hear or detect anything in this witness's words or voice that suggested remorse. Sadly, what I heard from the other side of the screen was indifference."
The proceedings on Thursday were attended by representatives of the US Embassy, Advocates sans Frontiers, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), National Lawyers Guild, Adalah, and the Arab Association for Human Rights, many of whom have closely followed the hearings throughout the trial.
The next scheduled hearings are November 4 and 15 between the hours of 9:00-16:00 before Judge Oded Gershon at the Haifa, District Court, 12 Palyam St., Haifa, Israel. Additional court dates are expected to be announced soon.
Please visit http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/trial for trial updates, changes to the court schedule and related information.