Border Policemen guarding the Old City of Jerusalem.
Border Policemen guarding the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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An Israeli court rejected claims made by Israel Police, according to which  an Arab man who stole a weapon from a security guard and was shot to death in 2007 was acting out of nationalistic motives, Haaretz learned on Thursday.

Mohammed Khatib, a resident of the northern village of Manda, travelled to Jerusalem in August of 2007 to pray at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Around 11 a.m., Khatib snatched a gun away from a security guard standing outside the Ateret Cohanim religious seminary, which is located in the Old City's Muslim Quarter. Khatib fled with the weapon, was pursued and then was killed in a gunfight.

Following the incident, police told the media that Khatib's actions were premeditated and committed out of nationalistic motives.

The suit was brought by Khatib's family, after it was declared ineligible to receive a survivors' pension from Israel's National Insurance Institute due to the police's claim that his crime was a terrorist attack committed out of nationalistic motives.

The court rejected the results of the police investigation and criticized investigators for transmitting false information to the court and the media.

In the court's verdict, reached last month, Judge Maha Samir-Amar found a series of failures and lies in the police's conduct in the affair.

In his testimony to the court on behalf of the state, Israel Police Superintendent Asher Lazimi, who ran the investigation, said his conclusion that the event was committed out of nationalistic motives was based on four findings: a suicide note found in Khatib's pocket, a hammer allegedly carried by Khatib, the fact that the crime was carried out in Jerusalem and intelligence information.

However, the judge determined that the "suicide note" found in Khatib's pocket was no more than a collection of verses from the Koran on witchcraft and the evil eye.

Regarding the hammer, which Lazimi had claimed was hidden by Khatib in his coat, none of the security cameras that recorded the incident showed Khatib carrying a hammer, no such object was recovered from the crime scene and it turned out that Khatib was wearing only a short-sleeved shirt, with no coat.

Regarding the police's claim that the location of the crime in Jerusalem indicated nationalistic intent, the judge wrote that this conclusion was based on "prejudice" and a "general assumption."

Regarding alleged intelligence, the judge wrote that this claim was made for the first time in court, and that it was unclear what intelligence information, if any, existed.

The judge also criticized Jerusalem district police spokesperson, Chief Superintendent Shmulik Ben Rubi, for transmitting false information to the media.

While police had initially claimed that Khatib stole the gun, shot and then fled, footage documenting the event showed that he had in fact stolen the gun and then fled, without opening fire.

"If Khatib had sought to kill the security guard due to a nationalist motive, he would have done so immediately after stealing the gun, when there was no obstacle to doing so. Khatib would not have turned his back to the guard and fled the scene with the stolen object in his hand," the judge wrote in her verdict.  

She also noted that Khatib "did not say anything to the guards and did not shout out anything religious or nationalist during the incident, which also casts doubt on his intention to carry out a terrorist attack out of nationalist motives."

The police did not respond to an inquiry by Haaretz.

Read this article in Hebrew