Israel Indicts Taxi Driver for Not Suspecting Passenger Who Committed Stabbing Attack

‘He’s a taxi driver, it’s not his job to check the intentions of every passenger,’ defense attorney says

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Scene of the stabbing attack in Jerusalem, earlier this month.
Scene of the stabbing attack in Jerusalem, earlier this month.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

A taxi driver from Kafr Qasem was indicted Thursday on suspicion of giving a ride to a terrorist who had committed a stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City two weeks ago.

The driver had driven Mohammed Salima from near the Habla checkpoint near Qalqilyah to Damascus Gate for 400 shekels ($130). Shortly after Salima got out of the car he stabbed Avraham Elmaliah, an Israeli on his way to the Western Wall. After that he was apparently about to stab two Border Police officers who approached him, but they shot him dead.

The taxi driver, Issa Zafwat, 48, was arrested shortly after the incident and was indicted in Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

“The defendant gave a ride to a foreign resident who was staying in Israel without a permit, and in his negligence caused harm to the complainant,” the indictment read. “The defendant should have suspected that the West Bank resident he picked up could be a terrorist planning an attack in Israel, yet he didn’t refrain from driving him into Jerusalem.”

Zafwat, who maintains he is innocent, is charged with causing injury by negligence and with driving an illegal alien. The prosecution asked the court to extend his detention until the end of the legal process.

The defendant’s lawyer, Yossi Silberberg, said, “He’s a taxi driver, he has no authority and it’s not his job to check the intentions of every passenger. He picked him up as an Israeli and was paid for it. He didn’t know the man was in Israel illegally. This indictment is contrary to common sense and logic, it’s state bullying, because the prosecution knows he has no connection to the security offense.”

In 2016 Hamis Salima of East Jerusalem was convicted of a similar offense after he was charged with driving the terrorist who shot and killed the officer Hadar Cohen at Damascus Gate. Salima confessed as part of a plea bargain and was sentenced to two years in prison.

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