For nine years the police and state prosecutor's office have insisted there was nothing wrong with the way police conducted themselves when they shot and killed Mahmoud Al-Saadi, 17, of Lod after stopping the car he was driving at a major intersection in Ramle. For nine years the official version, that the shooting was justified because the policemen feared for their lives, hasn't wavered. Petitions and appeals submitted throughout the years by the family to the Justice Ministry's department for the investigation of police officers, the state prosecutor, and the Supreme Court were either rejected or cancelled at the behest of the judges. Had it not been for Judge Drora Pilpel, vice-president of the Tel Aviv District Court, the case of Al-Saadi's death would have been filed somewhere and forgotten.
Two weeks ago, in a damages suit filed by Al-Saadi's parents, Judge Pilpel ruled that the testimony of the police officer who shot Al-Saadi in the head and caused his death contradicted testimony from others, and that the shooting was "an unreasonable measure exceeding the required standard of caution." The judge also rejected the police claim, adopted by the prosecutor's office, regarding Al-Saadi's "reckless driving" when he allegedly tried to evade the police cars closing in on him, and she wondered where the evidence that could have confirmed or negated various accounts had disappeared to. The prosecutor's office is now considering whether to appeal the ruling, which ordered the state to pay Al-Saadi's family NIS 1.36 million in compensation.
Even if the level of proof required in a civil suit differs from that in a criminal case, Judge Pilpel's ruling necessitates a re-examination of the incident. Beyond the question of evidence having vanished, the court's ruling that the fatal shooting of the youth wasn't justified doesn't sit well with the categorical stance long-held by state prosecutor's office that all the policemen acted appropriately. A re-examination is also necessary in light of the prosecutor's office's response that during the civil trial facts were made clear that hadn't arisen from the evidence collected by the investigation department. After nine years the circumstances of Al-Saadi's death should be clarified in their entirety.
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