Protests as Gaza court cuts sentence in Vittorio Arrigoni murder case
GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) - Palestinian human rights groups and NGOs on Wednesday demanded that a Gaza court explain why it had cut the life sentences handed to two men for the murder of an Italian national.
The statement was issued a day after a military court accepted an appeal by two Salafist militants who were convicted last year of the kidnap and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni in April 2011.
Both were sentenced to life behind bars but escaped the death penalty following a request from Arrigoni's family.
"In its latest decision on 19 February 2013, the court granted the convicts' appeal by reducing the first and the second defendants' sentence from life imprisonment with hard labour to 15 years imprisonment," said a statement by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Al-Mezan, Addameer and the Palestinian NGO network.
In response, they demanded that the court "publish the reasoning of its decision to reduce the sentence as soon as possible, in order to clarify its motive."
Although the family had expressed a wish that the court refrain from applying the death penalty, it was not a licence for "tolerance or waiving the private or public right when dealing with perpetrators of dangerous and serious crimes like in this case," it said.
A third man who was also convicted in connection with the Arrigoni murder will also appeal on February 24 to reduce the 10-year sentence he was handed.
In their appeal, the two militants had asked the court drop the murder conviction, leaving only kidnapping on their file, but it was not immediately clear whether that part of the appeal was accepted.
Arrigoni, 36, a member of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, was kidnapped on April 14, 2011 by a group of Salafists and found hanged in an abandoned house in northern Gaza.
It was the first time a foreign national had been murdered in Gaza since Hamas took over.