Palestinian Files Compaint After Israeli Police Plant Gun in His Home for TV Docudrama

Justice Ministry department urges family of Samer Sleiman to file complaint after officers were filmed 'discovering' an M-16 assault rifle ■ Police apologize for incident, say investigation to be launched

Right: Samar Sleiman in his basement. Right: Screengrab from the scene in Jerusalem District
Emil Salman

The Palestinian resident who had a rifle planted in his house by Israeli police for the filming of a docudrama filed a complaint on Wednesday to the Police Investigations Department at the Justice Ministry.

In the course of filming Kan TV series “Jerusalem District,” forces are filmed “discovering” a M-16 rifle in the home of Samer Sleiman, an East Jerusalem resident. “I don’t have many expectations,” said his lawyer, Arie Avitan, who accompanied Sleiman to the ministry. Avitan added that he did expect “somebody to inquire” and responsibility to be taken.

“I want to ask the judge who issued the search warrant whether he knew it was part of a TV series,” Avitan said ahead of filing the complaint. “Did he ask to know what was behind the search? I expect the police to take responsibility, at the level of the district commander and the commissioner. I expect the officers to provide an explanation.”

>> By planting gun for reality TV, Israel Police reveal truth about East Jerusalem | Analysis 

The Police Investigations Department at the Justice Ministry itself urged the family to complain against the policemen involved in the affair on Tuesday, and the police said it was opening a thorough investigation. The police also apologized, stating, “We apologize for any harm caused to the citizen pursuant to the segment’s broadcast. The incident is under investigation and the necessary lessons will be learned accordingly.”

Sleiman’s house in the village of Isawiyah was searched in November 2018, after which he was handed a document stating that nothing was found there. However, a few months later, Sleiman’s neighbors identified the house in an episode of a nine-part docudrama in which a M-16 rifle was “discovered’ in a cellar.

Sleiman, who had been unaware of the circumstances of the search filmed in his home, was never arrested or questioned about the weapon allegedly discovered in his cellar. During the segment, one of the show's protagonists describes the cellar as a “tunnel that wouldn’t shame the digging in Gaza.” The police officers are shown praising the rifle’s “discovery” and leaving satisfied.

Police sources said on Tuesday that there had been a police operation in Sleiman’s house based on intelligence reports about concealed weapons. The production and film crew of Koda Communications, which produced the show, was summoned but in practice, no weapons were found. The sources say at some stage, one of the people involved in production suggested that one of the policemen plant his weapon in the cellar. The suggestion was accepted by the senior officer at the scene, who took part in the series.

Koda Communications stated that the segments in question was an “illustration meant to manifest to the viewer unusual events the district encounters during its routine work.” The company added that such things are done “rarely, for the purpose of protecting the working methods of the police, or the safety of the participants in the show.”

Kan however rejected Koda Communications' answer, writing it a letter on Tuesday saying, “Koda’s response is insufficient and we are waiting to receive, by tomorrow, the production’s answer about how the events unfolded and who was responsible, or party to, planting the weapon and portraying it as part of a real event. Once all the information has been provided, the incident will be handled accordingly.”

Following the Haaretz report, Kan decided to remove all episodes of the series available online on Wednesday, and Koda Communications is examining three additional scenes that may have also included "the same motif."