Israeli Police Officers Accused of Abusing Bedouin Family Evade Investigation

A Bedouin father and his two sons were detained during a protest. Their complaint of assault and serious abuse, was dismissed without any attempt to locate the policemen involved.

Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

A complaint of assault and serious abuse, filed against a number of police officers by a Bedouin father and his two sons, was dismissed by the police internal investigations unit without any attempt being made to locate the policemen involved.

The fact that the investigators hadn't bothered to find the policemen came to light during the appeal against the closure of the file.

Taleb Alturi and his sons Nidal and Rauf, of the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev, accused a group of some 20 policemen of attacking them after a protest on September 30, 2013 against the so-called Prawer plan for the relocation of tens of thousands of Negev Bedouin to government-recognized local councils.

The police, who they said were not recognizable due to their helmets and face guards, reportedly shouted "Why did you throw stones at us, you bastards?"
According to the complaint, the police then hit the three with batons and fists, kicked them, dragged them along the ground and jumped on their bodies when they were lying manacled on the ground.

One of Alturi's sons complained that a stun grenade was thrown directly at him, injuring his back, and the other said that a policeman had urinated on him. At some point, the father lost consciousness.

According to their testimonies, the police also made such comments as "let's give each of them a bullet in the head," "you stinking Arab bastard" and "watch your bum because they'll soon be fucking you in prison."

The assault took place in an unlit area, in which the assailants could not be recognized. Later, when they were taken to police vehicles in a lit area, one of the policemen warned his comrades that "it's not dark; everything is being filmed and documented."

The three were imprisoned for just over a day, but later released without any charges being laid against them. Two judges ruled that there was no evidentiary basis on which to hold them, with one noting that the father had been severely beaten.

The complainants maintained that during the full year that their complaint was under investigation, the investigators only questioned the two policemen in whose custody the three had been left following the beatings.

The file was then closed due to "absence of guilt," on the basis of the testimony of the two policemen questioned. However, even those two testified that the three Bedouin had been arrested by members of paramilitary police units.

The arresting police did not write out any arrest reports, as required, and their names were not documented.

Taleb Alturi and his sons Nidal and Rauf after being apprehended by police. Photo by Yotam Ronen / Activestills.org

The appeal against the closure of the file was lodged with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein at the beginning of last week, in cooperation with the Israeli Committee Against Torture.

Haaretz asked the investigation unit whether the absence of an arrest report with the names of the arresting officers did not arouse suspicion that an attempt had been made to hide the assault.

"Indeed, the absence of a report as required by regulations raises suspicion that that there was no reasonable explanation for the use of force, but it does not indicate the identity of an specific officer involved, " the investigations unit wrote in response.

"In these circumstances, with continuing suspicion as to an offence being committed by an officer, there was no option but to close the case in its entirety for reasons of lack of an unidentified perpetrator."

In the explanation of the closure of the file that was provided to the complainants' lawyer, only absence of guilt was specified. The unit did not specify that the perpetrator had not been identified.

In response to another question from Haaretz, the unit said: "The background to the complaint was a stormy protest by thousands of protesters and 300 police – a protest that got out of control and resulted in injury to 31 police officers and the arrest of 21 demonstrators.

"Due to the large number of police officers on the scene and the inability to connect any individual officer to violence, it was not possible to question the police officers and ascertain whether any of their actions exceeded the reasonable level needed to carry out their job. Holes and contradiction were found in the versions provided by the complainants."

The attorney of the complainants denied that there were any contradictions.

Amira Hass tweets at @hass_haaretz