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The Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department has been investigating a complaint that border policemen tied a Palestinian's hands to a mule last week and caused the animal to break into a gallop, which ultimately led to the man's death.

Last Sunday, Mahmoud Shawara, a 43-year-old laborer and father of nine, set out on his mule from his home in the village of Nuaman, east of Bethlehem, to seek work in the neighboring village of Umm Touba, close to Jerusalem. He was arrested by a Border Police unit around 9 A.M. for not having an Israeli work permit. The border policemen then ordered Shawara to accompany them to the Moria police station in Talpiot, but he refused, claiming he could not leave his mule in the open lest it wander off or be stolen. His brother Daoud, who was also arrested, got into the Border Police jeep, leaving his brother behind with the policemen.

At 4 P.M., Umm Touba resident Mohammed Hamadan spotted a mule galloping madly toward the village houses and dragging something behind it. When the mule drew near, a horrified Hamadan saw there was a man secured to the mule by a black rope tied to his left hand. He recognized Shawara, whom he knew well. Shawara's head was shattered and he was unconscious and barely breathing. An ambulance rushed Shawara to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, where he died five days later in the neurosurgical ward.

What happened between 9 A.M. and 4 P.M.? In Nuaman, people are certain that border policemen tied Shawara to the mule and scared it into bolting. The family of the deceased has even filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Department. Officials in the department have speculated that Shawara died as the result of a riding accident, after tying himself to a mule that was known to be "wild."

A spokesman for the Justice Ministry, Yaakov Galanti, told Haaretz: "Our best investigations indicate that there is no connection between the activity of the Border Police and the injury and death of the individual."