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The brothers of a man murdered in his jail cell sued the police for negligence yesterday. They are seeking NIS 4.5 million in damages.

Aharon Simahov, 25, of Tiberias, was found hanging in his jail cell on March 5, 2004, a day after being arrested for breaking and entering. He was taken to the hospital, where he died two and a half months later.

His death was initially deemed a suicide. But earlier this year, when Adwan Farhan was arrested for the murder of teenager Dana Bennett, he confessed to having murdered Simahov as well.

In their suit, filed in the Haifa District Court, Simahov's brothers, Vitaly and Arnold Ashurov, accuse the Tiberias police of having failed to take sufficient precautions to safeguard their brother.

Upon his arrest, the suit said, Simahov gave the police the names of his two accomplices, and one was arrested. For some reason, police put this man in the same cell as Simahov and a quarrel broke out, after which police found Simahov cowering in fear on the floor of the shower.

That incident alone should have been enough to persuade the police that Simahov might be in danger, the suit argued. And beyond that, "the fact that he cooperated with the police and incriminated his friends ... was known to all." Since such behavior tends to be unpopular with criminals, that, too, should have warned the police that he might be in danger, the suit said.

Moreover, it noted, while policemen at the Tiberias lock-up had been ordered by their superiors to check on Simahov every half hour, in fact no such checks were made between 8:15 A.M. on the fatal day and 10:50 A.M., when he was found hanging in the cell.

Just four days earlier, the suit added, another prisoner had been found strung up in the same cell - and some of the same detainees, including Farhan, were still being held in that cell when Simahov was placed there. "Only four days had passed, and the lessons were not learned," the plaintiffs wrote.

Another point raised in the suit is that two days after Simahov was hospitalized, he was examined by Prof. Yehuda Hiss, head of the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine. In his subsequent report, Hiss wrote that he could not state conclusively that Simahov had been murdered, but he also "could not rule out the possibility that the deceased had been hanged by others."

Nevertheless, the suit said, the police made up their minds that Simahov had killed himself and refused to open an investigation, despite repeated pleas from Vitaly, who suspected from the start that his brother had been murdered.

Even after Farhan confessed to the murder, the police did not bother informing Simahov's brothers; they eventually heard it through the media.

"Does anyone even care that our brother was murdered?" a furious Vitaly demanded yesterday. "They slaughtered a man like a rooster in his detention cell, and that's it. I want the whole world to know my brother was murdered ... My brother was arrested for a minor offense and murdered in his detention cell a few hours later. Everyone ought to know this could happen to him, too."