Israeli Cop Involved in Fatal Car Chase of Settler Teen Arrested for Obstruction

Officer is suspected of giving an interview to a journalist, who published his version of events that led to the death of 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak

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Right-wing demonstrators protest the death of Ahuvia Sandak, holding signs reading 'Killer cops to jail,' in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2021.
Right-wing demonstrators protest the death of Ahuvia Sandak, holding signs reading 'Killer cops to jail,' in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2021.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

The Justice Ministry unit that investigates police misconduct arrested on Saturday one of the officers involved in a car chase that led to the death of an Israeli teenager suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians.

The officer is suspected of obstructing the investigation by speaking to a reporter, who published his version of the events in which Ahuvia Sandak was killed.

The officer, a detective, denied that he had spoken to the reporter, Kalman Liebskind of the Israeli daily Maariv. A source knowledgeable about the details of the investigation told Haaretz that the suspicions against the officer are not connected to the car chase or the car accident that followed, but rather due to the detective’s alleged Maariv interview. The decision to investigate the officer was made by the unit’s head, Keren Bar-Menachem. Liebskind was also summoned for questioning.

According to the Justice Ministry unit, the officer’s lawyer, Itzik Cohen, mediated between the officer and Liebskind, and therefore cannot represent him. His new attorney, Roi Golan, said that “This is an arrest to silence [him] and a false arrest.”

He added that the Justice Ministry unit is under public and media pressure. “It is unacceptable that they are arresting an officer like a common criminal immediately after violent protests across the country on the matter," Golan said, noting that his client was arrested three weeks after the tragic incident, and investigated a number of times. He added that the unit must do some soul-searching, and called on it to regain its composure and let his client go.

Another police officer involved in the chase was questioned Saturday on suspicion of obstructing the investigation by coordinating his version of the event for the incident report with other officers. According to the Justice Ministry unit, the officers delayed sending in the report for several hours. The second officer’s attorney, Moshe Alon, said: “My client acted in accordance with the law, as is expected under the circumstances. Unfortunately, the outcome of the incident was tragic. I’m sure that with the conclusion of the investigation it will be shown that there was no wrongdoing on my client’s part.”

Sandak, a 16-year-old resident of Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, was killed last month after a vehicle pursuit by police of him and his friends, who were suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians in the West Bank. Officers crashed into their car from behind, causing it to flip, which fatally injured Sandak and lightly to moderately injured the others in the car with him.

The four other people in the car are suspected of reckless homicide, after it emerged that they fled the scene of the accident while Sandak was still trapped under the car.

Since Sandak’s death, right-wing protests have taken place regularly outside National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem and throughout Israel and the West Bank. Some of them have turned violent, with demonstrators throwing stones, attacking Arab passersby and assaulting police.

About two weeks ago, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Justice Ministry unit headquarters in Jerusalem, where police said demonstrators threw stones, overturned a police car, punctured tires on police vehicles, tore out traffic lane barriers and smashed the windows of a prisoner transport vehicle.

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