Turkish Pathologist: Palestinian Detainee Was Beaten Before Dying in Israeli Jail

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Palestinians carry the body of Arafat Jaradat before his funeral in the West Bank village of Sa'ir near Hebron February 25, 2013. Credit: Reuters

A Palestinian who expired in Israeli detention was beaten before dying, a Turkish pathologist has claimed in an expert opinion submitted to an Israeli court.

Her opinion contradicts the view of an Israeli state pathologist, who concluded that Arafat Jaradat died of natural causes.

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, which is investigating Jaradat’s death, lifted a gag order on the Turkish report on Sunday, in response to a request by Haaretz.

Jaradat, 30, died in his cell at Megiddo Prison on February 23, 2013. He had been arrested by the Shin Bet security service five days earlier, on suspicion of throwing rocks that wounded an Israeli civilian near the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba in November 2012. The Shin Bet said Jaradat, from the West Bank village of Sa’ir, near Hebron, confessed to the crime.

In a statement put out immediately after his death, the Shin Bet noted that, at the time of his arrest, Jaradat had been suffering from back pains as well as two old injuries – a rubber bullet that hit his left leg and a tear-gas grenade that hit his stomach. It also said Jaradat had been feeling poorly during his last few days, but a medical exam hadn’t found anything wrong so his interrogation continued.
On the day of his death, he was in his cell after lunch when he began having trouble breathing and lost consciousness. The prison medic and an ambulance crew were summoned and tried to revive him, but eventually pronounced him dead.

But Jaradat’s fellow prisoners disputed the Shin Bet’s account. They said he had been in good health until the day he died and accused the Shin Bet of torturing him to death.

The government therefore asked the Petah Tikva court to investigate his death and sent Jaradat’s body to be autopsied by the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Dr. Yehuda Hiss, who headed the institute at the time, submitted an expert opinion to the court saying that Jaradat almost certainly died of a heart attack. He acknowledged that several injuries were found on Jaradat’s body, including cracked lips and bruised muscles in the left shoulder and the right side of his back, but said that all these are injuries commonly found in people who have undergone artificial resuscitation.

A Palestinian pathologist, Dr. Saber al-Aloul, was also present at the autopsy, but came to a different conclusion. He said the injuries on Jaradat’s body were the direct result of torture, and the trauma of this torture caused his death.

Given these conflicting opinions, Jaradat’s family then sought a third opinion from an outside expert. With help from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Palestinian organization Al-Haq, they approached a Turkish pathologist, Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, who submitted her opinion to the court a few weeks ago.

Fincanci said the injuries visible in photographs taken during the autopsy were inconsistent with resuscitation efforts, and appeared instead to have been inflicted with a long, thick object. She added that the immediate cause of death was a pulmonary edema that caused severe breathing difficulties.

PCATI noted that Fincanci is a doctor with 31 years’ experience, including 27 years as an expert in forensic medicine. Moreover, she was a contributor to the Istanbul Protocol, a guide published by the United Nations that is used worldwide to investigate allegations of torture.

Asked for comment, the Central District Prosecution reiterated Hiss’ conclusions and noted that Hiss found no basis for the claim that Jaradat had been tortured. It also noted that Fincanci wasn’t present at the autopsy, and “it’s not completely clear what [her opinion] was based on.”

The prosecution has asked Jaradat’s family for the material on which Fincanci based his opinion, so its own experts can evaluate it, the statement continued, but the family’s lawyers have so far refused to hand it over, “despite the state’s repeated requests.” Consequently, the court, which is hearing the case behind closed doors, “was forced, on June 18, 2014, to issue an order requiring them to do so within a week. Immediately after the material is received, it will be examined by the Institute of Forensic Medicine.”

Correction: This article and its headline were amended on June 23.

Palestinians mourn death of Arafat Jaradat, who died in an Israeli prison, after his body was handed over by Israeli authorities on February 24, 2013. Credit: AFP

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