Israeli court orders Tristan Anderson case reopened
Israel’s High Court has ordered the state to re-investigate the case of Tristan Anderson, a Grass Valley man who was shot in the head by a high-velocity tear gas grenade in 2009 in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. Anderson’s skull was shattered in the incident, which also caused severe brain damage and paralysis to half his body.
According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, the High Court ordered the state to investigate the claims made by Yesh Din and the Anderson family that Tristan had been shot at close range following a protest against the building of a controversial wall.
The Samaria and Judea (West Bank) Police District opened an investigation just three days after the incident took place. However, on Sept. 30, 2009, the prosecution announced it had closed the case without any explanation.
Attorneys for Anderson’s family, along with Yesh Din, appeared before the Israeli High Court of Justice July 10 in Jerusalem. The petition challenged the investigation that they claimed was blatantly inadequate with the identity of the shooter still being actively withheld to this day.
“The astonishing negligence of this investigation and of the prosecutorial team that monitored its outcome is unacceptable, but it epitomizes Israel’s culture of impunity,” said attorney Michael Sfard.
“Tristan’s case is actually not rare; it represents hundreds of other cases of Palestinian victims whose investigations have also failed.”
Anderson’s wounding at the hands of Israeli soldiers — which many compared to the death of fellow International Solidarity Movement volunteer Rachel Corrie, who was run over while trying to block an armored bulldozer in March 2003 — made international headlines and sparked protests both in the United States and abroad.
Anderson, now 41, was injured March 13, 2009, as he stood with other peace activists and Palestinians hours after a demonstration had dispersed, according to published reports.
An Israeli soldier fired the fist-sized canister — a high-velocity, extended-range tear gas projectile — and hit Anderson in the head. Witnesses to the incident said Israeli soldiers were standing on the hill looking over them, firing tear-gas canisters straight into the crowd.
Anderson was in Ni’lin as an observer; he had been traveling with his girlfriend, Gabrielle Silverman, as an observer of what he called “an intense political conflict.”
He was to join his parents later for an extended trip through Europe.
Anderson suffered multiple condensed, skull fractures as a result of being hit in the right frontal lobe.
He was rushed to a hospital in Tel Aviv, where he remained for nearly 15 months. He had several surgeries and underwent a cranioplasty in August 2009 to relieve pressure caused by post-traumatic hydrocephalus.
Anderson didn’t start talking until December. Before that, he communicated primarily with gestures and pantomime and also by writing and spelling words out on a communication board.
Anderson spent time in Iraq in 2004 as part of an anti-war children’s circus, and he worked in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 as an independent reporter for the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center.
He has been involved in a variety of local and international campaigns over the years, including Latin American solidarity work; anti-war activism; involvement in several forest campaigns, including Headwaters Forest and the two-year-long Save the Oaks tree-sit campaign on campus of the University of California, Berkeley; as well as serving food to the homeless with Food Not Bombs for years and riding with Critical Mass bicycle activists.
His parents, Mike and Nancy Anderson, have been Quakers for many years, and he has credited them for motivating his activism.
Anderson returned to Grass Valley in June 2010, one step in a long rehabilitation process.
“Tristan will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain,” his mother, Nancy, said in a press release.
“This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.”
In mid-August 2009, Israel’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement that its preliminary investigation had cleared government forces of wrongdoing.
But in June of this year, the Israeli District Attorney announced the police will revisit the investigation.
The case was reopened following an appeal filed on behalf of Anderson’s family by Sfard. The appeal pointed out flaws and negligence in the original investigation, Sfard said.
Sfard alleged the investigating team had never visited the scene of the shooting and, as a result, questioned officers who had nothing to do with Anderson’s shooting. A second border police crew, which was located in the area where Anderson was shot, was never questioned at all.
“We need real accountability for police violence and for the abuse that’s being done by members of the military,” said Silverman.
“Soldiers on the ground need to know that their actions carry consequences. That their own hopes and dreams are at stake.”
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