Six Suspects in Jaffa Murder Likely to Win Release Due to Police Incompetence

Judge sees slim chances of winning conviction in the 2015 case, citing police neglect in gathering evidence.

Illustration: A man in handcuffs.
Eyal Varshavsky

Six suspects indicted for the May 2015 slaying of Jihad Hamad in Jaffa may win release from prison after a judge found it unlikely they could be convicted in the case, citing police neglect in gathering evidence.

Judge Benny Sagi of the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ordered reviews of suspects so that they may freed to house arrest. Sagi wrote that “the potential for conviction for murder, based on the existing infrastructure, is not great.” 

Police declined any comment.

The men, all Jaffa residents, were charged for the murder in February.

Police posited that one of the suspects, Abed Ayish, was the ringleader, based on a suspicion that Hamad had had a friend of Ayish’s killed a year earlier. Hamad was arrested as a suspect in that 2014 slaying but released a few days later.

The charge sheet says that Ayish began plotting Hamad’s murder right after his release from prison. They bugged his car with a GPS tracking device (on which traces of DNA were found), so they could track his movements.

Sagi wrote in his judgment though that the evidence does not suggest any “hierarchical gang” was involved. 

“So even if Defendant No. 1 was proved to have a motive, it cannot be said with certainty that ‘his problem was their problem,’” Sagi said.

On the night of the murder, the suspects met at the Orchidea Hotel from where they left in a Citroen Berlingo to commit the crime, then returned to the hotel, investigators said.

But some of the details of this supposition have not been nailed down.

Police did not take all the security camera footage from the hotel, and they have none showing the suspects getting into or out of the car.

Avraham Nakash, owner of the Orchidea, testified in court he thinks the Berlingo referred to by police may belong to the hotel.

Other security footage from that same evening has since been erased. The judge excoriated police for neglecting to examine all the cameras in the Orchidea parking lot, and said it was difficult to prove any link between the suspects and the car suspected to have been used in perpetrating the murder.

Sagi said there was a simple lack of evidence against the suspects.  He said further that police, who were at the hotel for less than 10 minutes, returning later for only another six minutes, had neglected to check the suspects’ rooms at the hotel, nor did they even bother to visit the suspects’ homes.

The investigators said that the suspects had acted as a group and turned off their cellphones on the day of the murder. Sagi wrote though that the evidence showed they each turned off their phone at a different time, evidence which did not support a theory of synchronized action. 

Walid Kabub, the defense attorney for one of the suspects, welcomed the judge’s comments.

“The court examined the evidence very carefully and decided what it decided,” he said.