4 Policemen Indicted for Allegedly Pouring Boiling Water on Detainee

An officer and three detectives in Be’er Sheva face trial, after a man of Ethiopian origin was admitted to hospital with second-degree burns in 2011.

Shirly Seidler
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Israel Police officer (illustrative).
Israel Police officer (illustrative).Credit: David Bachar
Shirly Seidler

The Justice Ministry’s police complaints division has indicted an officer and three detectives after a detainee was allegedly beaten and had boiling water poured on him during an interrogation at Be’er Sheva police station.

The indictment, which was served on Sunday in Be’er Sheva District Court via attorney Ayelet Razin Bet-Or, was drafted after the detainee filed a complaint that the defendants had abused him during his interrogation.

The plaintiff, who is of Ethiopian origin and lives in southern Israel, was arrested by two detectives in August 2011, on suspicion of stealing jewelry and possessing stolen property. He was brought to the police station where, according to the indictment, he was slammed against a wall by two detectives and other police officers, who beat and kicked him.

Later on, he was brought for questioning to the intelligence coordinator, Tzion Hayoun. When the plaintiff said he had not stolen the jewelry but merely found it, Hayoun allegedly closed the curtains of the room, turned the radio up to a loud volume and brandished a nightstick, wrapped in newspaper, at the plaintiff.

At the second stage, the plaintiff was brought for questioning with Supt. Oren Sabag, who allegedly boiled water in an electric kettle, poured it into a cup and then poured it on the plaintiff’s trousers as he screamed in pain.

Several minutes later, as the interrogation continued, the officer heated water in the electric kettle again. When it boiled, he poured it onto the detainee’s lower body as the detainee screamed, asking the police officers to stop and saying he would admit to having stolen the jewelry, which he had said repeatedly he had found.

The abuse allegedly continued in the presence of the intelligence coordinator, who did not stop the officer from pouring boiling water on the detainee time and again, causing severe burns to his skin.

The third time, the officer is alleged to have poured boiling water into the detainee’s shoe, whereupon the detainee said he was “willing to sign whatever you want” in order to be released from the interrogation.

Sabag asked the detainee yet again where the jewelry had come from and told him to confess to having stolen it, and again the detainee said he had found it. On hearing his answer, the officer allegedly poured boiling water on him for the fourth time, this time on his back. According to the indictment, when the detainee began to writhe in agony, the officer told him, “Next time I’m not taking you to court.”

After the interrogation, the detainee was taken to the emergency room at Soroka Medical Center, Be’er Sheva, with second-degree burns on his back and leg.

On their way to the hospital, the two detectives asked the plaintiff how he had gotten the burns, and the plaintiff answered that the police officers had poured water on him during questioning. At this, a detective said, “They’re out of their minds,” and the plaintiff said this had been their method.

The indictment charges the officer and intelligence coordinator with abusing a helpless person, aggravated assault and applying pressure while serving in a public position.

The two detectives were charged with aggravated battery and breach of trust, the latter for not having reported what had happened or filing reports of the incident as they were required to do.

According to an official within the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, the stolen-jewelry case against the detainee has been closed. Attorney Avi Himi, who is representing Supt. Sabag, said, “This is a malicious lie, and there is no basis for the charges. These are people who wish him ill, and we will prove that at the trial.”

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