Justice Ministry to Speed Up Probe of Police Killing of Palestinian, Source Says

Investigation to pick up the pace due to media reports and continued detention of victim's cousin; according to source, officers involved may soon be questioned as suspects.

Yaniv Kubovich
Nir Hasson
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Ali Nimr, cousin of Mustafa Nimr who was killed by Israeli border police in Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, in court, September 8, 2016.
Ali Nimr, cousin of Mustafa Nimr who was killed by Israeli border police in Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, in court, September 8, 2016.
Yaniv Kubovich
Nir Hasson

The investigation of the incident in which Mustafa Nimr was shot by police and killed on Monday will be speeded up, a source within the Justice Ministry's department that investigates police officers told Haaretz on Thursday. 

The investigation has been given priority because of the press reports about the incident and the fact that Nimr's cousin, Ali Nimr, who was driving the car the two were riding in and was also wounded, is under arrest, said the source.

Ali Nimr, 25, was driving the car police shot at early Monday morning near the Shoafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. Police initially said that the two men were planning to run over the police officers, but a day later retracted their claim and said that they were looking into other possibilities. They then accused Ali Nimr of traffic violations and of being responsible for his cousin's death, saying that his reckless driving prompted police suspicions.  

The Justice Ministry investigators will decide in the next few days whether to summon the police officers involved in the incident for questioning as possible criminal suspects.  Investigators have taken testimony from the police officers already, but they have yet to be cautioned that they are under suspicion and read their rights – similar to other cases in which police fire resulted in deaths. 

A video aired by Israeli media on Wednesday appears to support suspicions that Israel Police officers who shot and killed Mustafa Nimr in East Jerusalem this week were in no threat by the two.

Ali Nimr will remain in police custody for five more days, the court ruled Thursday. Though Judge Shaul Gabai Richter of the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court  accepted the police's request to extend Nimr's arrest, he said there was no probable cause to support the police's allegations of manslaughter, saying there was "a significant gap" in evidence supporting the connection between Ali Nimr and his role in his cousin's death.

On Thursday, a police representative said at the hearing that Nimr confessed to driving under the influence, but the officer admitted that police found no evidence to suggest Nimr was trying to hurt the cops out of political motives.

The judge added that the reason he had agreed to the police's request to keep Nimr in custody was the fact that he was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs and had previous traffic offences. These traffic offences, he said, were sufficient grounds to prove he was a possible danger to society.

"This is yet another example of a case in which the police's finger is light on the trigger," Nimr's attorney said. "After seeing the results [of their actions], the easiest thing was to say it was a car-ramming attempt."

He called the police's allegation that Nimr's driving prompted the cops to shot his cousin "baseless."

Nimr's family accused the police of cover-up after the court hearing. "These are not policemen, these are criminals," his brother said, adding that Mustafa Nimr was killed for nothing.