Israel Drops Probe Into Police Who Planted Gun in Palestinian's Home for TV Series

Justice Ministry department head blocks investigation before it gets underway, citing lack of criminal intent, after an assault rifle was planted in tense East Jerusalem neighborhood for a now-cancelled docudrama

Josh Breiner
Nir Hasson
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Israeli police at checkpoint at the entrance to Isawiyah, occupied East Jerusalem, September 8, 2020.
Israeli police at checkpoint at the entrance to Isawiyah, occupied East Jerusalem, September 8, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Josh Breiner
Nir Hasson

The Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police officers said Tuesday it would end the investigation into the planting of a gun in an East Jerusalem man’s home as part of a television series and had no intention of indicting anyone involved.

Police had planted an M-16 in the home of Samer Sleiman as part of the Kan TV reality series "Jerusalem District," featuring police officers in the city. The intention was to stage a search which in the end would come up with the rifle.

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After the incident was published by Haaretz, further complaints against the series’ authenticity also surfaced, as well as concerns over extensive editorial control of the program by the police themselves. The Justice Ministry unit’s investigation found that the series had presented certain segments as authentic, when in fact they were staged, and “Jerusalem District” was subsequently taken off the air.

Investigators sought to look into the case but the department head, Keren Bar-Menachem, was opposed and recommended that the case be closed, arguing the police had no criminal intent. The issue may now be handled instead by an internal police disciplinary unit.

Sleiman’s attorney, Aryeh Avitan, expressed disappointment at the decision, but said he was unsurprised: "We shall consider how to respond. We will confront the police at the level of damages and also weigh an appeal against this ridiculous decision by the Justice Ministry investigations unit. Unfortunately we didn’t have any great expectations."

The investigation was launched following Sleiman's complaint in August, aftea few months later, Sleiman’s neighbors identified the house in an episode of a nine-part docudrama in which an M-16 rifle was 'discovered’ in a cellar.

In response to questions raised by the incident, the company that produced the series, Koda Communications, released a statement saying: "It was a case of misjudgement. Koda takes responsibility for its part in this mistake and we apologize to anyone who was hurt, apologize to viewers and the corporation."

Isawiyah, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, has been a flashpoint for clashes in the past two years, with the intensified police presence described by the UN as a form of collective punishment.

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