Police mishandled probe into Israeli Arab riot deaths, report finds
Three cases against police officers who shot dead Israeli Arabs in riots in October 2000 were improperly closed, Israel Democracy Institute claims.
Three cases against police officers who shot dead Israeli Arabs in the October 2000 riots were improperly closed due to bias, the Israel Democracy Institute will claim in a report to be released soon. The comprehensive study will charge that the prosecution was guilty of "biased conduct in analyzing evidence."
The study looks into the circumstances that led then attorney general Menachem Mazuz to adopt the State Prosecution's recommendation to close - for lack of evidence - the inquiries into the death of three men.
Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer and former Haifa district attorney Lina Saba, who conducted the study, examined thoroughly dozens of pieces of evidence that accumulated in the files.
According to the study, Rami Ghara, of Jatt, was killed on October 1 from a rubber-coated bullet that hit him in the eye. He was in a garage when he was shot, while police outside were dispersing demonstrators throwing stones at the intersection at the village's entrance.
Ahmad Jabarin, of Muawiya, was also killed on October 1 from a rubber bullet in the eye, while the security forces clashed with the angry crowd in the Umm al Fahm intersection.
Maslah Abu-Jihad, of Gaza, was killed on October 2 from sniper fire in the Umm al-Fahm area. Five others were injured in that incident.
The study shows that closing these three cases was unjustified and the Department for Investigating Policemen and the prosecution did not complete the investigation. The examination also showed the prosecution took a biased approach in analyzing the evidence.
When witnesses gave testimonies that could substantiate the evidence against the person or persons suspected of causing the death, the prosecution completely ignored them. In other cases it disqualified the testimonies, claiming inaccuracies, without sorting out these inaccuracies with the witnesses.
When witnesses gave more than one version, the prosecution chose, without any explanation, the one advancing its "lack of evidence" thesis.
In the investigation into the death of Ahmad Jabarin, for example, the prosecution did not accept the strong evidence in the case - including the suspect's confession that he was the only one who had fired rubber bullets at the site. Instead, the prosecution decided to doubt the confession by interpreting it in its own way, the study found. The prosecution did not check this with the suspect but decided that when he claimed only he could have fired the rubber bullet, he meant that only he had a rifle, while the others had an M-16, which, according to some testimonies could also fire rubber bullets.
Another example of the prosecution's alleged biased approach is mentioned in connection with the incriminating evidence regarding the testimony of one of the policemen at the site, who gave two versions. In one version he said he fired rubber bullets, which could weaken the evidence against the officer suspected of shooting. In a later version he said that in the absence of other means he fired live bullets.
The prosecution preferred the first version, with no explanation, the study says, and on its basis decided the officer's version raised doubt about whether he was the only one who had fired rubber bullets.
The study claims to show bias in the prosecution's interpretation and analyzing evidence.
The researchers say the prosecution opted to use the weaker evidence to establish findings and chose testimonies that advanced closing the case, sometimes out of context.
In the case of Rami Ghara's death, the study found that the prosecution used testimonies of Watad village residents Abed Alrahim, Osama Ghara and Mohsan Marwan. The prosecution had earlier disqualified all the villagers' testimonies as unreliable. It did so even though one of the witnesses - Osama Ghara - doubted his memory and Marwan's testimony was hearsay.
"You can't say the villagers testimonies are unreliable and on theother hand choose from among them, with no real explanation, statements that serve the prosecution's thesis and quote only them," the researchers wrote.
The prosecution decided that the evidence of the officer suspected of the killing was unreliable and pointed out all the contradictions in his versions and on the other hand used his statements to establish findings about the danger he and other officers were in.
Jabarin's father, Ibrahim, of the village Muawiya, said yesterday the families of those killed have been saying for years that the cases were closed before completing the investigation and that they had been caused an injustice.