Illustrative photo of Israeli border police officers and Palestinian drivers at a checkpoint near Ramallah. Ammar Awad/Reuters

Israeli Border Policemen Accused of Stealing Cash From Palestinians in Bogus Vehicle Checks

Two officers charged in Jerusalem District Court for robbing thousands from West Bank motorists in the guise of conducting security checks

Jerusalem District Court has charged two border policemen with stealing thousands of shekels from West Bank Palestinians in traffic stops carried out on the pretext of a vehicle search.

The policemen were charged with armed robbery, though they are not accused of using their weapons during the thefts.

Suspects Amjad Ashkar, 22, and Stefan Rashad, 20, admitted to the allegations against them, Justice Ministry investigators said. The indictment alleges that the policemen, who serve in the West Bank, carried out the thefts in recent months while in uniform and using police vehicles.

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They are accused of stopping vehicles in the Ramallah area without any justification and then informing the motorists that their vehicles were being search. Cash was then stolen from the cars, the charge sheet says.

Ashkar was accused of committing most of the thefts, including one incident in July in which he drove his police vehicle to the vicinity of the Hizmeh border checkpoint, where he ordered a Palestinian motorist to stop and empty his pockets then to move away from his vehicle. Ashkar is accused of taking 1,400 shekels from the man on the pretext that the money was counterfeit.

A month later, Ashkar allegedly stopped a Palestinian trucker near the settlement of Geva Binyamin and took 7,000 shekels from him during a search of the vehicle. According to the indictment, Ashkar left the scene after telling the trucker to wait until another police vehicle came. The trucker is said to have waited for two hours before leaving when no police cruiser arrived.

In another incident in August, Ashkar is accused of stopping a Palestinian motorist for a vehicle search in which the border policeman found 7,000 shekels. When the motorist resisted, Ashkar allegedly told him not to tell anyone about the incident or Ashkar would run him over.

In an incident implicating both policemen, they allegedly stopped a Palestinian motorist near Geva Binyamin on the pretext of carrying out a search and took 2,500 shekels from the vehicle. The Palestinian occupants of the car demanded the money back and filed a complaint, according to the indictment.

The Justice Ministry has asked that both policemen be held in custody for the duration of their trial, saying they had both acknowledged the crimes. The ministry said that footage of one incident involving Ashkar has been obtained, which has led investigators to the site where he hid the cash.

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