Officer Suspected of Killing Bedouin Youth Returned to Custody After Temporary Release

Jerusalem District Court ordered release on grounds that cause of death had not been determined, only for Supreme Court to accept prosecution's appeal.

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A poster commemorating Sami al-Ja’ar, courtesy of his family.
A poster commemorating Sami al-Ja’ar, courtesy of his family.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Jerusalem District Court ordered the release Friday of the policeman suspected of illegally shooting and killing Sami al-Ja’ar of Rahat last month, noting that because the pathologist’s report has not yet been filed cause of death had not yet been determined. According to Judge Moshe Drori, vice president of the Jerusalem District Court, where the case is being heard, as long as cause of death has not been determined, there is no reason to hold the officer in custody.

However, the officer was returned to custody Saturday after the Supreme Court accepted the prosecution’s appeal against the release.

The police officer has now been remanded until Tuesday.

The officer’s identity has not been made public and his family is under protection since his arrest following threats on his life and theirs.

The officer was arrested Thursday following an investigation by the unit in the Justice Ministry that investigates police conduct in which he implicated himself in the shooting death of al-Ja’ar, who was killed during a drug arrest in Rahat.

The investigation revealed that the officer did not report the shooting in real time, changed his story a number of times during questioning and also provided false information.

The officer’s attorney, Erez Abuhav, told Haaretz that his client had been arrested although there was no objective evidence that he fired the shots that killed al-Ja’ar. “The judge criticized the fact that there were no objective findings as to what how the man died; the investigation does not know whether there were bullets in the body and how many were in the area of the shooting and what the implications of this are,” Abuhav said.

After the officer’s arrest threats were made against him on social media, as well as against seven other policemen from the Rahat police station, whose names and pictures were posted, after which they were given protection.

Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevi, commander of the southern district, said in response to the threats against the officers: “We are aware of the storm of emotion, but only the court is authorized to judge and punish.”

Halevi said that anyone who tried to hurt the officers or their families “would encounter the most severe and painful response at the disposal of the police.” Halevi warned that anyone who was found to have fomented violence would be immediately arrested and

Halevi also called on community leaders in Rahat to use their influence to calm things down, condemn violence and let justice take its course in the courts. “The police, who work night and day to protect the public, must be defended and we will continue to give the best possible police services to Rahat, fully and equally,” waiting for the investigation to be completed. 

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