The Israeli military charged a soldier with manslaughter Monday for shooting a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground last month in the West Bank.
The 19-year-old soldier, whose identity remains secret under a gag order, was initially held on a murder warrant. The lighter manslaughter charge, reflecting the view that the killing was not premeditated, could still result in 20 years in prison.
"The accused violated the rules of engagement without operational justification as the terrorist was lying on the ground wounded and represented no immediate threat for the accused or others who were present," a copy of the indictment said. "By his acts, the accused unlawfully caused the death of the terrorist Abdul Sharif."
Defense lawyers say the soldier acted in fear that the Palestinian assailant was carrying a bomb; however, prosecutors determined that the assailant was posing no threat when he was killed.
"The terrorist...was left lying on the ground, still alive, and did not present any immediate and tangible danger to the civilians and soldiers around him," the manslaughter indictment said.
The incident took place March 24 in Hebron, a city in the occupied West Bank that has been at the center of six months of Palestinian street violence.
The case has sparked controversy throughout the region with polls showing 57 percent of Israelis believe the soldier should never have been arrested. An online petition has been signed by nearly 60,000 people demanding that he be decorated for heroism.