Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit announced on Sunday that he is closing the investigation of Shin Bet interrogators who allegedly assaulted Samer Arbid, who is suspected of murdering an Israeli teen in 2019.
Arbid, the head of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine cell, was charged with murdering 17-year-old Rina Shnerb. She was killed when an explosive device detonated at a natural spring near a West Bank settlement.
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According to documents obtained by Haaretz in 2019, Arbid had been deemed healthy by an Israel Prisons Service physician when he entered custody, and the next day, following his interrogation, arrived to the hospital in critical condition, with a suspected heart attack, broken ribs and contusions. At a certain point, his body went into kidney failure and had to be put on a respirator. He regained consciousness two weeks later.
"The attorney general decided to close the case due to a lack of an evidentiary basis of the commission of an offense," a statement issued on Mendelblit's behalf said, noting that the decision followed an examination of the evidence and was in line with recommendations received from the investigation team and the opinion of those in the prosecution who accompanied the handling of the investigation.
During the investigation, which was handled by the Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct, “a number of Shin Bet interrogators were questioned under caution on suspicion of unlawful use of force, statements were obtained from witnesses, documents were confiscated and an opinion was obtained from the Institute of Forensic Medicine," the statement noted. The statement also noted that the attorney general instructed the government to learn the required lessons.
Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman said Sunday in response to the attorney general’s announcement that he supports the Shin Bet interrogators who carried out their mission according to the law “and in their action saved the lives of many Israelis.”
"The attorney general's decision is scandalous, and does not align with the facts and the test of logic." the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel said in response to the attorney general's decision. "Samer Arbid was arrested when he was completely healthy, and after an interrogation, which even the Shin Bet admits used physical methods, he reached the brink of death and needed intensive medical treatment to save his life."
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According to media reports, at the hospital Arbid was found to have suffered multiple rib fractures and acute renal failure - signs that indicate the use of torture. In the decision to close the case, the attorney general validated the use of torture in the State of Israel, and granted Shin Bet investigators immunity from prosecution, even when their actions almost led to the death of a person."
When Arbid entered custody on September 25 at 1:25 A.M., the doctor who examined him when reported no exceptional findings, noting that Arbid was “generally healthy,” that his overall condition was “reasonable” and that there were no signs of bruising on his body, according to documents obtained by Haaretz.
Later that morning, Arbid was transferred to Ofer Prison where he was examined by another doctor at 10:55 A.M. Arbid complained of a sore throat and general weakness, but other than that nothing unusual was noted. That same doctor checked Arbid at 6:21 P.M. later that day, and once again noted no exceptional findings. Arbid was then returned to the Russian Compound police station in Jerusalem.
A document completed at 7:10 A.M. the next morning, September 26, by an Israel Prisons Service physician states that Arbid arrived in a wheelchair with a suspected heart attack. He was sent to Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus, in critical condition, where he was diagnosed with numerous broken ribs. A document filled out by a Hadassah doctor on September 28 stated that Arbid had sustained numerous bruises on his limbs, neck and chest.
Shnerb was hiking with her father and brother when she was killed by the explosion near the West Bank settlement of Dolev. Her father and brother were moderately and seriously wounded in the attack. The explosion took place at a natural spring that is a popular tourist and recreational site, which is particularly crowded on weekends and holidays.