Israel Police Refused to Release Body of Killed Palestinian to Family for Autopsy Before Burial

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Responders at the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City, October 3, 2015.Credit: Olivier Fittousi

The family of Fadi Alon, a Palestinian shot dead by police a week ago after he allegedly stabbed an Israeli teen, demanded an autopsy to help determine the circumstances of his death, rights lawyers said Sunday. But the police, who were holding Alon's body, would not release it until immediately before the funeral Saturday night.

A video of the incident shows that Alon was shot in central Jerusalem by a policeman who had emerged from his patrol car. The police say Alon had stabbed and lightly wounded 15-year-old Moshe Malka — one of many stabbing attacks against Israelis this month as violence between Israel and the Palestinians has heightened.

In the video, Alon can be seen trying to leave the scene on Jerusalem’s Kheil Hahandasa Street, when bystanders called on the officer to shoot him. Alon, who is from East Jerusalem’s Kafr Aqab neighborhood, was separated from the police and bystanders by a low fence that runs along the city’s light-rail system.

“The attempt to prevent an autopsy even though this is a case of death by unnatural causes raises suspicions that the police are trying to disrupt the investigation a priori, including the destruction of vital factual evidence,”  Suhad Bishara from the Adalah legal center and Mohammad Mahmoud from rights group Al-Dameer said in a letter. “This conduct makes it imperative to open an investigation.”

The family appealed with the help of Adalah and Al-Dameer, and a court asked the family to turn to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department — the department that investigates the police, but the police would not release the body.

The Jerusalem police said Sunday they were informed that Alon's family had submitted a petition for an autopsy, but the police opted not to perform one after the court received the petition.

“The video shows clearly that the deceased posed no clear and immediate threat that justified his shooting and killing. Moreover, the video shows policemen emerging from two vehicles and immediately firing a volley of bullets at the deceased. At the end, one can see people and policemen walking up to his body and turning it over with their feet,” the lawyers said in the letter.

“Police opposition to an autopsy raises grave suspicions that the law was violated in a clear conflict of interest. Even though the department for investigating police conduct has the authority to investigate incidents involving policemen, the police are taking action to damage evidence that would serve such an investigation, a clear conflict of interest.”

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