Palestinian Held for 11 Days While Investigators Failed to Determine if Gun Was Real

Suspect claimed the gun was a toy, but his detention has been extended the three times while awaiting forensic results

A weapons store in Tel Aviv.
Moti Milrod

The Israel Police has recently held a Palestinian man in detention for 11 days for allegedly possessing a gun, but were unable to prove whether the weapon was real. The suspect, from the northern West Bank, claimed the gun was a toy.

Throughout his prison stay, the suspect was questioned only once, shortly after his arrest. Although his detention was extended three times, police never obtained the results of tests that were supposed to determine whether the weapon was real. Ultimately, the military court released the suspect on bail in the beginning of July. The suspect declined to speak with Haaretz.

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The Israel Defense Forces arrested the man on June 23 after finding what troops called a dangerous weapon in his home. The man has been charged in the past with possession of weapons and was brought before the military court in the Arab village of Salem, outside Haifa. The court extended his detention by six days, until July 1, asking investigators to "carry out all the investigative actions necessary, including checking whether it was a proper weapon."

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Four days later the suspect appealed to the court. At that point, his case was discussed – not in his presence –  at a hearing in the Israeli military's appeals court. A police investigator said that because the suspect claimed the weapon was a toy, the item had been passed along to an examination by a weapons expert, who also couldn't determine whether this was a real weapon. The judge who presided over the case then decided to that the suspect had to remain in detention.

On July 1, the military court held another hearing regarding the case but police could still not determine the authenticity of the weapon. The suspect's attorney agreed that his remand be extended by another day. The next day, the suspect was brought before the court for the third time. Police still couldn’t verify the gun and asked to extend the suspect's detention by six more days. Pressed by his lawyer, the police investigator confirmed that it would be the fourth extension and they still hadn’t received an opinion or report from the expert or a lab.

The investigator also confirmed that they had questioned the man only once, on June 23, and when asked, said there was no need to talk with him again “at this point.” When the suspect's lawyer urged that he be freed, the investigator argued they had a report from a police officer who had seen and checked the item, and “we have [had] a conversation” with an expert that contradicts the suspect’s contention that the weapon is a toy. However, the lawyer rebutted that the police officer doesn’t have the authority to rule whether it was a weapon or not, and in any case, he hadn’t done so.

The court ordered police to free the suspect, noting that he is a resident of Area C and owns a car leasing service which was having difficulty functioning with him in jail. The court also noted that the police provided an opinion which didn't relate to the nature of the item but rather dealt with the question whether the item was a booby-trapped.

The suspect gave a statement on the day of his arrest and the entire police investigation involved waiting for the expert’s opinion on the item, the judge wrote. “This is all the more significant because the investigator, in his fairness, tells the court now that in conversation with the lab, he couldn’t get an estimate of when the opinion might arrive,” the judge continued – and ordered he be released on bail.

The IDF confirmed that the suspect was arrested on June 23 after a rifle was found in his home. His remand was extended by the military court on June 26, to July 1, based on the suspect’s history of weapons offenses and for the sake of the investigation’s completion. The army further noted that on June 27, at the hearing of the appeal, the decision was made to send the item to a police expert immediately. The expert said the weapon was made of metal but was further checking whether it could fire which required a forensic examination. On July 1 the suspect’s remand was extended by two more days, with the acquiescence of his lawyer, and on July 2, the lab test dragged on. 

The police stated that in contrast to his claims, the suspect was arrested when parts of weapons were found in his possession, which could be used to assemble an improvised weapon. Several investigative actions were taken and the suspect’s detention was extended from time to time. The police, it said, will continue to investigate the case.