Widow of Bedouin Man Killed by Police Demands Probe, Says Netanyahu's Apology Not Enough

'Everyone knew he was innocent from the first moment, but they closed the case because he's a Bedouin,' says Amal Abu Sa'ad, whose husband was killed by cops in 2017 in what authorities had erroneously said was a terror attack

Almog Ben Zikri
Netael Bandel
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Amal Abu Sa’ad, the wife of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan who was shot and killed by police in 2017, Umm al-Hiran, September 9, 2020.
Amal Abu Sa’ad, the wife of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan who was shot and killed by police in 2017, Umm al-Hiran, September 9, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Netael Bandel

Yakub Abu al-Kiyan's widow thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday for apologizing to his family after he was shot and killed by police during the evacuation of the southern village of Umm al-Hiran in January 2017, and confirming that her husband had not been a terrorist. But Amal Abu Sa’ad also said the apology was insufficient, and demanded “That it be expressed in steps that [Netanyahu] takes now.” 

At a press conference held in Umm al-Hiran, Abu Sa’ad said: “Everyone knew the evidence said he was innocent, from the first moment and the first month. But they closed the case because he is a Bedouin. He didn’t deserve it, he has different blood, his blood is not red, so it is possible to be quiet, to close the case and set it aside.”

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Jaber, Yakub’s brother, told the press that President Reuven Rivlin’s office called the family on Tuesday and invited them to a meeting, but he declined and requested Rivlin come see them in the village instead.

Yaqub Abu al-Kiyan.

At the press conference, Abu al-Kiyan’s family demanded the establishment of an official commission of inquiry. The family also said that they are living in mobile homes and demanded that the government act on a legalization process in which they would be awarded land and compensation.

Moshe Karif, the lawyer representing the Abu al-Kiyan family in its civil suit against the police for 17 million shekels in damages filed last month, said: “This is an important moment for the family, that yesterday received a belated apology from Prime Minister Netanyahu. Justice is good even if it comes late. Certainly this apology, even when it comes at this time, is praiseworthy.” Karif added that Abu al-Kiyan “took his belongings from his home and was killed by the police, for no reason.”

The children of Raba, the wife of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, play near the ruined house, Umm al-Hiran, September 9, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Abu al-Kiyan was killed during the 2017 evacuation of Umm al-Hiran; during the incident, which his car struck and killed police officer Erez Levy. Netanyahu had then described the event as a car-ramming terrorism attack. In a video Netanyahu released after the incident, he described the events as a “terrorist attack by unknown” people. During his apology on Tuesday, the prime minister said that his statement at the time was based on information he received from the police.

“I asked the police three times, and received a report from the police commissioner’s office that this was a car-ramming attack. Later when it turned out that this was not fully clear, I asked to wait until the end, but the end never came.”

'Incorrect facts'

After Netanyahu’s apology, the police offered their condolences to the Abu al-Kiyan family for the first time. Rivlin commented on the police’s apology, hinting at the part the law enforcement system played in the affair. “Not only individuals need to recognize their mistakes. Government organizations and countries also have the responsibility for self-criticism and apologizing for mistakes.”

In his speech on Tuesday, a day after Israel’s Channel 12 News published correspondence between senior law enforcement officials allegedly revealing misconduct in regard to the shooting, Netanyahu said that senior law enforcement officials “Turned him [Abu al-Kiyan] into a terrorist to protect themselves and hurt me.” The State Prosecutor’s Office said in response that the claim that Abu al-Kiyan was a terrorist was never made by the prosecution, but only by the then Public Security Minister and other bodies.”

The State Prosecutor’s Office issued an unusual statement on Wednesday, denying the claims made by Netanyahu concerning its actions. “In the prime minister’s speech yesterday, incorrect facts were presented concerning the State Prosecutor’s Office.” The statement included detailed comments on what Netanyahu said on Tuesday. The State Prosecutor’s Office once again denied accusations that the handling of the prime minister’s criminal corruption cases was influenced by political motives.

As for Netanyahu’s claim that the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct wanted to investigate what occurred during the evacuation of Umm al-Hiran, but that former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan prevented it – the State Prosecutor’s Office clarified that the Justice Ministry unit conducted a “Comprehensive and broad examination of the incident.” Last year Haaretz revealed that the members of the Justice Ministry unit thought Abu al-Kiyan had not intended to run over Levy, but Nitzan decided to close the case without making a decision on the matter.

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