An order to dump an injured Palestinian man on the side of the road near the security fence some four years ago was given by the commander of the Rehovot police station, one of the men accused in the case testified on Sunday.
According to the indictment, Chief Inspector Baruch Peretz was the officer on duty at the Rehovot police station on June 12, 2008, when he ordered a low-ranking policeman, Assaf Yakutieli, to throw Omar Abu Jariban out of a police vehicle, on the side of the road. Abu Jariban died of dehydration some time later.
However Peretz testified on Sunday that it was actually Commander Yossi Bachar who gave the order. Peretz and Yakutieli are on trial for negligent homicide in Jariban's death.
Jariban was seriously injured in a car accident on May 28, 2008, while driving a stolen car on Route 6, near the Soreq interchange. He had been in Israel illegally. He was hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer where he remained for two weeks before he was released into the custody of Rehovot police officers. He still required medical care and rehabilitation, and was apparently in a state of confusion.
Police, who did not know the identity of the patient-suspect, ultimately decided to admit him to the Israel Prison Service's medical facility. But it turned out there was no room for him there. So officers from the Rehovot station, which had assumed responsibility for investigating the accident and the car theft, drove Jariban to the West Bank. They eventually left him, late at night, at the side of road 45 near the Ofer military base. His body was discovered two days later.
In his testimony Sunday, Peretz said he was unaware of the medical condition of the unidentified man, when he arrived at the police station from Sheba Medical Center. He said he did not know it had been recommended that the suspect be taken to the Israel Prison Service hospital.
Peretz testified that Jariban was standing and walking, which is why Peretz did not realize he required further medical attention. Peretz was the only witness who said Jariban was ambulatory. Peretz said that when they were unable to identify Jariban at the Rehovot police station, he sent a team of police officers with the prisoner to the Kfar Sava police station, so that he could be identified with the use of fingerprinting equipment. "I told Bachar and his order was to bring [the prisoner] to the roadblock to send him back to the West Bank. I said to Yossi that maybe we should bring him back to the [Rehovot] station, and identify him in the morning and Yossi said, 'that's impossible, he has to be released.'"
The patrol car carrying Jariban arrived at the Maccabim roadblock, where the soldiers on duty refused to let them pass. Peretz said Bachar then told him to drop the Palestinian at a lit intersection where passing Palestinian cars would see him. Peretz said he told Yakutieli that he did not know the road, and that Yakutieli responded that he knew the area. Peretz told the court that he thought the order was wrong, but he carried it out "to the letter."
After the body was discovered, Bachar called Peretz, who had gone on vacation, and told him to fill out a report on what had happened. Peretz said Bachar told him that nothing would happen to him and that he, Bachar, would take responsibility.
The Justice Ministry department investigating the police in the case decided to close the case against Bachar after he was questioned under warning. From questions raised on Sunday by prosecutor Batya Kolitz, it emerged that the department's investigators believed that the order to throw Jariban out of the car was a reasonable one. Thus, Bachar was not indicted. And because the accused did not follow the order to leave Jariban at a lit junction, and instead left him by the side of the road, they were indicted.
Comments by Judge Haim Li-Ran indicate that he apparently believes the order was patently illegal and that any reasonable person should have refused to obey it.
Sunday's testimony also revealed that that Jariban's release form was not signed by Peretz, but by another investigator who forged Peretz's signature, and that it was common practice at the Rehovot station to release illegal residents on the other side of roadblocks in the territories, although it is against police regulations to do so. Peretz himself said he had done this dozens of times. The trial will continue in May, when Yakutieli will testify.
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