Suspect in West Bank Military Court Goes Free After Israeli Police Lose Evidence

The judge calls the negligence 'amazing at best’; the army said it had discovered bullets and rifle parts in a Palestinian's home.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

A Palestinian man has been acquitted in military court because Israeli detectives lost alleged weapons parts they had not even bothered to photograph.

Last June, on a tip received by the Shin Bet security service, Givati Brigade troops raided the home of Samer Ayran in Nablus. They seized what they believed to be rifle parts and, after an interrogation by the Shin Bet, sent Ayran to the police for questioning. He was later indicted in a West Bank military court.

But during the trial it turned out the evidence had gone missing. The state could only bring the testimony of a Givati soldier, who said that bullets, a sniper-rifle sight and parts of an M-16 rifle had been found in Ayran’s home.

The judge, Maj. Yariv Navon, noted the mistakes of both the police and the military prosecutor. He rejected the soldier’s testimony on the grounds that he was not an expert.

“A look at the evidence in the file shows many deficiencies in the police investigation — deficiencies that seem amazing at best,” Navon said, citing the “meager means and minimal effort invested by the Israel Police to get at the truth. It seems that in this case the police were satisfied with questioning a single soldier who was present when the defendant’s home was searched.”

Navon also harshly criticized the military prosecutor.

“The examination of the evidence by a reasonable military prosecutor should have led to an unequivocal conclusion that the evidence provided was not enough to convict the defendant,” Navon said. “A reasonable and professional military prosecutor should have demanded a supplementary investigation to find sufficient grounds, based on the evidence, either to convict the defendant or refute the charges.”

According to the IDF Spokesman’s Office, “When the indictment was handed down, unequivocal evidence tying the suspect to the crime was found. Unfortunately, as time went by, the Israel Police lost the evidence, which compromised the subsequent legal procedure.”

The police have not yet answered Haaretz queries for a comment.

A military court in the West Bank. Credit: Daniel Bar-On

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