Border Police Officer Convicted of Killing Hebron Teen Jailed for 6 Years

Haaretz Service
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Haaretz Service

The Jerusalem District Court on Monday sentenced a Border Police officer, convicted of killing a Palestinian teen six years ago, to six and a half years in prison.

The officer, Yanai Lalza, was also convicted of robbery, destroying evidence and obstructing justice.

Lalza and three other border policemen were posted in Hebron in 2002. One day the four abducted several Hebron residents, among them 17-year-old Amran Abu Hamadiya, and took them for a ride in their jeep. They abused the Arabs and beat them with truncheons and rifles. They hurled Abu Hamadiya out of the moving vehicle, causing his death.

Lalza was convicted in November 2006, as part of a plea bargain. He confessed, among other things, that he and one of the officers, Shahar Botbeka, had beaten Hamadiya, then opened the jeep's back doors before Lalza pushed Hamadiya out of the vehicle.

Despite his critical condition he had struck his head and Lalza shouted, "he's dead, he's dead" the soldiers continued driving and made no attempt to help him.

They later covered up the incident, coordinating their stories and falsifying documents.

A Police Investigations Department (PID) undercover agent infiltrated the four suspects' Border Police company to gather evidence on the incident, which the PID sees as one of the worst abuse cases in recent years.

Wishing to celebrate their last day in Hebron, Lalza and his friends had taken a jeep on December 30, 2002, and launched an abuse campaign in the city. First they abducted Alaa Sankrot, 20, and took him to an isolated spot, where they had him stand facing a stone wall. Botbeka beat him with a pickax handle while Lalza beat and kicked him. A third officer, Denis Alhazov, photographed the scene with the video camera while Basam Wahabe, the jeep's driver, stood watch. They broke the victim's skull and caused him other injuries, then left him there.

They repeated these acts with Hamza Rajabi, 22, and stole NIS 150 from him before abandoning him.

On another trip to Hebron later that day, the four abducted a man and ordered him to jump off the jeep. He did so, and managed to leave limping. Then they caught Abu Hamadiya, took him on the jeep and ordered him to jump.

Hamadiya held the straps on the jeep's top and tried to prevent them from pushing him out. He refused to jump, the Jerusalem District Court's Judge Orit Efaal-Gabay wrote in her verdict.

"Botbeka forcibly released the deceased youth's grasp on the straps and shoved him out of the jeep, which was traveling at the speed of 80 kilometers per hour. The youth's head struck the road forcefully and caused his death," the judge wrote.

The judge ruled that "Lalza saw the deceased fighting for his life, but did not lift a finger to help him and prevent the fatal result."

Photographing the incident reflected the officers' immense moral and ideological deficiency. A decision to disband this particular company was taken as a result of the undercover investigation.

The state reached an agreement to compensate the Abu Hamadiya family for NIS 450,000, which the state would collect from Lalza. The jeep's driver was convicted in a separate trial of being an accessory to manslaughter, among other things, and sentenced to four and a half years in prison.

Amran Abu Hamadiya's mother, Zinab, commended the prison sentence imposed on Lalza, but said the penalty was too light. She said that Amran, who was a high school student when he was killed, had been the family's bread winner after his father had died, and that since he had been killed the family's situation was very difficult.