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Lawsuits filed in Chile against Israeli justices for wall

SANTIAGO, Chile — Two lawsuits have been filed in Chile against three current or former Israeli Supreme Court justices for endorsing the construction of the West Bank separation barrier and the seizure of goods from Palestinians.

Chile's Palestinian Federation filed a war crimes suit Monday against current Justices Uzi Vogelman and Neal Hendel and retired justice Asher Grunis, who was president of the court in 2012-15. The group argues that Chile's international agreements allow for suits involving crimes against humanity committed in other countries.

A Chilean-Palestinian woman who owns land in the Cremisan Valley, which is near Bethlehem, filed a separate suit against the justices.

The lawyer representing her in the case, Nicolas Pavez, said the plaintiffs decided to sue in Chile after exhausting all avenues in Israel over the past eight years, leading to the Israel top court ruling on the legality of the barrier.

"The Supreme Court justices are accused of giving an appearance of legality to this wall that is illegal and that constitutes a war crime," Pavez said.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said the suit is a yet another publicity stunt with no legal basis by the Palestinian Federation of Chile.

Chile's Palestinian community is among the world's largest, with about 350,000 immigrants and their descendants.

Nahshon condemned what he called "the cynical abuse of the legal system to advance a political agenda" and said he expects Chilean authorities will "not to give a hand to such abuse."

Marcela Prieto Rudolphy, a Chilean attorney who specializes in human rights, said the suit is not likely to succeed.

"It's impossible for prosecutors to carry out an investigation over acts carried out in another country," she said. "Even if the case received a ruling, it would be impossible to carry it out."

Israel began building the barrier in 2002 in response to a wave of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people. Israel says the barrier is needed to keep out Palestinian attackers. Palestinians say the structure is an illegal land grab because it frequently juts into the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future independent state.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice, the U.N.'s highest judicial organ, issued an advisory opinion that found Israel's barrier to be illegal.


Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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