Gilad Mashasha
Gilad Mashasha Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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A bus driver who was allegedly beaten unconscious by two men a year ago has been charged with assault.

The suspected attackers, who are ultra-Orthodox, are also said to have called the victim "a stinking cushi" (a disparaging word in Hebrew for a black person ).

The driver, Gilad Mashasha, was called to the police station earlier this month, where he expected to be asked to provide evidence. He said he hadn't heard from the police or the state prosecution for a year.

Instead, Mashasha discovered that one of his alleged attackers had lodged a complaint saying the driver had torn the man's shirt and taken his cell phone.

"I was in the hospital for almost two weeks. I live on pills, on a disability allowance. I'm broken. Now after a year, I'm a suspect?" Mashasha said.

Mashasha, who was born in Ethiopia, lives in Ofarim in the northern West Bank. He worked on and off as an Egged bus driver since 1992, with his usual route being line 227 from the ultra-Orthodox community of Elad to Jerusalem and back.

On the day of the alleged attack, a young Haredi man stood in front of the bus at the departure point in Elad and insisted that Mashasha wait for his friend. When the driver refused, the man boarded the bus and cursed him in front of the other passengers. The man's friend boarded the bus near the Jerusalem central bus station, and they reportedly began to beat Mashasha in front of the passengers.

"They broke my nose, my teeth, my knees. I shouted for help but nobody helped me. They kicked me and cursed me," Mashasha said. Before they left, they also allegedly took money and bus tickets from Mashasha. He filed a complaint, and the police passed the file on to the prosecution recommending that the alleged attackers be indicted.

In June, the prosecution returned the file to the police to complete the investigation. A month later, the police summoned Mashasha as a suspect.

In a recent letter to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Mashasha's attorneys Judy Broder and Elad Rath called the law enforcement authorities' attitude "disparaging and insensitive."

The Jerusalem district police said yesterday that the main suspect had been arrested and questioned under warning for assault and theft, and was remanded for six days. They added that the State Prosecutor's Office had instructed them to call Mashasha in for questioning under warning, on suspicion of assault, as part of the completion of the investigation.