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The brothers of prisoner Aharon Simhov are suing the police, claiming his death could have been averted, after suspected serial killer Adwan Farhan stated he strangled Simhov in their shared cell.

Simhov, 25, of Tiberias, was found hanging in his cell on March 5, 2004, less than a day after his arrest. He was taken unconscious to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, where he died two months later. His death was ruled a suicide, even though his family claimed there was evidence of murder.

The brothers claim Simhov was hanging for half an hour before a policeman sitting several meters away noticed.

Farhan, Simhov's cellmate, initially said Simhov was murdered by a third cellmate. The breakthrough came several weeks ago when Farhan, under suspicion of murdering American-Israeli teenager Dana Bennett six years ago, confessed to strangling Simhov and faking the suicide scene.

Aharon Simhov immigrated to Israel with his brothers Vitaly and Arnold in 1995, from Sochi, Georgia. They had lived with an uncle in their home country, after their mother died and their father abandoned them.

When they immigrated, Aharon was 16, Vitaly was 12 and Arnold was 9. They were sent to a boarding school, where Vitaly and Arnold changed their name to Ashurov, their mother's maiden name. Aharon decided to remain a Simhov.

Initial account

Vitaly said Farhan's initial account of the murder resembled an incident that took place in the cell a few days before Simhov was arrested. Another detainee was found hanging, after the cellmate Farhan accused in Simhov's murder prepared a noose and persuaded him to hang himself. Police responded quickly enough to save that man's life.

The Ashurovs say their brother was murdered in a nearly identical way. "Farhan prepared a rope for him and kept telling him to hang himself. But Aharon wouldn't do it, so he strangled him," they said in their suit, prepared by their lawyer, Shmuel Mandelbaum.

"We want to know what the policemen were doing while our brother was hanging for half an hour," the suit said. "If the policemen had reached the deceased within a reasonable period of time, the fatal damage that caused his death could have been prevented."

The Ashurov brothers also allege that all signs indicated Simhov was in danger the moment he entered the cell with Farhan. Simhov was first put in a cell with a man he had incriminated. That detainee threatened Simhov and incited other detainees against him. After Simhov begged his wardens, he was moved to a cell across the hall, with Farhan. Due to the short distance between the cells, the incitement continued, the brothers stated.

"Considering the above circumstances, the police must have concluded that the deceased was at an increased risk, due to both his personal distress over the desire of the other detainees to hurt him, and from the detainees in the neighboring cell. The testimonies by all the detainees indicated that everyone knew Simhov had cooperated with the police and incriminated his friends," the suit said.

However, the police did not take necessary precautions, like separating Simhov from other prisoners and making more frequent inspections.

The brothers also allege "degrading treatment" by the police, and that they suspected a cover-up. Despite the suspicions of murder, Simhov's body was never autopsied, and the internal examination stated only that "the bruise was caused by a cord strung around his neck."

The police requested an autopsy only the day after the funeral, at which point the family refused.