Israeli Policeman Gets 2 Years in Prison for Robbing Palestinians at Checkpoints

Amjad Ashkar stole thousands of shekels from people he and another Border Policeman stopped under the pretext of searching their vehicles

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
A checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank near Ramallah, 2019.
A checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank near Ramallah, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

A Border Police officer has been sentenced to two years in prison for stealing, together with another policeman, thousands of shekels from Palestinians whose cars they stopped and searched at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank.

The Jerusalem District Court also convicted the Border Policeman, Amjad Ashkar, for attacking a press photographer during a hearing related to extending the policeman’s time in custody.

According to the original indictment against Ashkar from two years ago, the then-22-year-old and the other policeman robbed Palestinians at a checkpoint near Ramallah, stopping them for no reason before taking money they found while searching their vehicles.

Ashkar took 1,400 shekels ($400) from a car in the Hizme area. A month later he took 7,000 shekels from a truck he’d stopped. In another case, he pocketed a similar amount from the car of a Palestinian man he stopped. When the driver objected, Ashkar threatened that if the man told anyone about the incident, he would run him over. In yet another case, he and the other officer took 2,500 shekels from a Palestinian car they had stopped and searched.

Judge Chana Miriam Lomp noted on Wednesday during the sentencing that “these crimes are serious, but in light of the fact that this is a young man who volunteered to join the police and then took full responsibility for his actions and expressed remorse, I’ve decided to accept the plea bargain.” In addition to serving time, Ashkar will compensate the Palestinians who had filed the complaint.

Attorney Elyasaf Klein from the Police Internal Investigations department at the Justice Ministry said that “the accused had confessed to the robbery he committed while abusing his position as a policeman and the power differential between him and the plaintiffs, West Bank residents. He stopped their vehicles and took their money while claiming to conduct a lawful search. In doing so he unlawfully took thousands of shekels from innocent persons who had obeyed his orders as someone in uniform. His actions harmed not only the plaintiffs, but the public’s confidence in Israel’s police force.”

The other policeman involved in the case, who had not participated in all the thefts, was sentenced to 9 months of community service last February.

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