Case closed after deficient investigation, Honenu filed appeal

Injured youth; Photo credit: Free use

Tuesday, December 14, 2021, 10:33 More than three years after a Jewish youth was attacked by Arabs in the Binyamin region, the investigative case was closed. Recently, after receiving the investigative material in the case, Honenu Attorney Ofir Steiner filed an appeal to reopen the investigation and to bring the assailants to trial. Steiner leveled criticism at the police: “It is inconceivable that an incident which ended with a life-threatening injury would be investigated so superficially and inadequately, to the extent that the main suspect in the attack, whom the victim pointed out with the last of his strength at the scene, was not summoned for interrogation. As if that were not enough, the case was in the hands of the police for almost two years without any additional investigative active being taken.

“Such conduct on the part of the law enforcement authorities sends a message of failure to enforce the law, even in serious incidents of severe attacks motivated by nationalistic racism, thereby damaging the security of Israeli citizens. The law enforcement authorities must do everything within their power to rectify the injustice and to prosecute the violent assailants to the full extent of the law.”

The attack occurred near Givat Assaf, in June 2018. An Arab and his sons attacked A., a Jewish youth in his early 20s, who was meditating alone at the site. Initially, the father and his sons threw rocks at the youth, then the older of the two sons beat A. in the head and continued to beat him after he had fallen to the ground. With the last of his strength, A., whose consciousness was impaired, succeeded in escaping his assailants.

A. called the army and the police, who located the Arab father and his sons. The father’s shirt had blood stains on it, but his sons had showered and changed their clothes before the policemen arrived. The assailants were taken into the police station for a preliminary inquiry and released the same evening. Additionally, the police did not gather evidence at the scene that could have indicated the involvement of some of the assailants in the incident. The father was summoned for interrogation the following morning. A. was evacuated to the hospital with cuts to his head, fractured ribs and pneumothorax (abnormal collection of air in the chest cavity) resulting from a punctured lung.

Despite his serious injuries and the testimony he gave at the scene of the attack, the police interrogated A. under warning. His testimony from the interrogation matched what he had told the policemen at the scene. Afterwards, the police interrogated the Arab father, who added some details to his own testimony and changed others. He claimed that the Jewish youth, with his friends, had thrown rocks at him. He claimed that he had been injured, but was not able to show any signs of injury. When he was asked about the blood stains on his shirt, he replied that they were stains from a “popsicle”.

The father’s testimony contradicted his younger son’s testimony with regard to significant details. Also A.’s injuries, which were life-threatening, do not support the father’s central claim, that A. was injured by rocks that the youths’ friends had thrown.

In the days following the attack, Honenu demanded that the police detain suspects and interrogate them. Initially, the police replied that the case was under investigation. However, they stopped replying to Honenu’s requests for updates. Approximately two years later, Honenu was informed that the case had been transferred to the Military Advocate General, and approximately six months after that, Honenu was informed that the case had been closed.

Honenu requested the investigative material for the purpose of filing an appeal to reopen the case, and it was transferred to the organization approximately nine months later, over three years after the attack.

Honenu Attorney Ofir Steiner filed an appeal to reopen the case, writing that the investigative material raises many difficult questions about the conduct of the police: “The main suspect in the attack, the older son, was not summoned for interrogation at all, although his name and ID number were recorded at the scene, and A. had identified him in the presence of police and army forces. Additionally, the blood-stained shirt of the father was not taken as evidence, and the home of the assailants was not searched for the shirts from his sons, who had showered.” Also, the video clip which the younger son had recorded of the incident was not taken as evidence, even though it is mentioned in the police action report.

On his own initiative, A. sent his medical records to the police, who did not make any use of them and did not even include them in the investigative material. Additional witnesses mentioned in the case file, such as the soldiers who arrived on the scene, were not summoned to give testimony. “Why was this case left in the police offices for approximately two years, when no additional actions were taken?” Steiner wondered.

Steiner added that this is a serious case “of a severe injury, which could have easily ended with the death of the complainant. The complainant walked out of the incident beaten and bleeding, with injuries to his head, ribs, arms, and lungs. He was attacked only because he was a Jew.

“A situation in which such a severe and dangerous attack is so inadequately investigated must not be tolerated. The assailants, who were identified at the scene, were not only not detained and not brought to trial, but were not even summoned for interrogation. Even though the complainant made an effort, as he was bleeding profusely, to direct the security forces at the scene to his assailants, the assailants have continued their daily routines unhindered… A serious incident such as this must be taken care of quickly, by a professional and thorough investigation.”

In the conclusion of the appeal, Honenu Attorney Ofir Steiner demanded that the case be reopened, that an extensive and thorough investigation into the circumstances of the incident be carried out, and that the assailants be brought to trial.

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