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UK man shot by Israeli soldier was murdered-inquest

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Apr 6 (Reuters) An award-winning British cameraman shot dead in the Gaza Strip by an Israeli soldier was murdered, a London inquest found today.

James Miller was shot by a member of the Israel Defence Forces in May 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp while making a documentary about Palestinian children caught up in fighting with Israel.

''Based on the evidence laid before us, we, the jury, unanimously agree that this was an unlawful shooting with the intention of killing James Miller,'' the jury spokeswoman told St Pancras Coroner's Court in London.

''Therefore we can come to no other conclusion than that Miller was indeed murdered.

''It is a fact that from day one of this inquest, the Israeli authorities have not been forthcoming in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Miller's death,'' the jury said.

An inquest is not meant to establish guilt but to determine the cause of death.

Coroner Andrew Reid had told the jury the only verdict it could return was one of unlawful killing but that it had to determine whether Miller was murdered or the victim of manslaughter.

Witnesses had told the inquest that Israeli troops shot father-of-two Miller at close range even though he wore journalist insignia and waved a white flag.

The Israeli army last April cleared an officer, identified only as Lieutenant H, of any wrongdoing in Miller's death, drawing an official protest from the British government.

Miller's film, ''Death in Gaza'', completed by colleagues after his killing, shows the 34-year-old approaching an armoured vehicle in the dark before the fatal shots sounded.

Miller had been trying to ask the soldiers if it was safe to leave the area when he was fatally shot in the neck.

In a statement after the verdict, the family said their efforts to investigate Miller's death had ''finally been vindicated'' by the jury's verdict, after a three-year struggle.

Israel's embassy in London said it regretted Miller's death.

It said that an extensive investigation by the Israeli authorities, including evidence from witnesses and using laboratories in Israel and abroad, had not provided enough evidence for a prosecution under criminal law.

The British government said the unlawful killing verdict did not come as a surprise.

''We are disappointed that the (Israeli) military police did not recommend an indictment and that no one has been held accountable for James' death,'' Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said in a statement.

Miller's family, critical of the authorities' efforts in investigating the death, had launched a private investigation, hiring a Home Office pathologist and an independent military expert to gather evidence.

''Death in Gaza'' won three Emmy awards in 2005. ''Beneath the Veil'', a documentary about life under Afghanistan's Taliban, which Miller made with journalist Shaira Shah, also won an Emmy.

At least 3,548 Palestinians and 1,011 Israelis have been killed since the uprising began in 2000.

Reuters TM VP0025

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