Israel, Family Fight Over Release of Body of Bedouin Accused of Terror Attack

Issue heads to top court after family of man who fatally ran over cop and was himself shot to death refuses to agree to police’s conditions, including limit on funeral attendees.

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Jacob Musa Abu al-Kian, who was fatally shot by police after supposedly ramming his car into security forces.
Jacob Musa Abu al-Kian, who was fatally shot by police after supposedly ramming his car into security forces.

Police and the family of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, the driver of the light truck that police claim ran over and killed policeman Erez Levy in Umm al-Hiran last week, failed to reach an agreement on transferring his body to the family for burial.

The Kiyan family refused to sign a document listing the police conditions for the body’s release, which included a financial guarantee and limiting the number of people at the funeral. As a result, the issue will be decided Monday in a High Court of Justice hearing of a petition the family has filed to get the body returned. The state said it rejects the petition.

Police claim that Kiyan committed a vehicle-ramming attack and was responsible for Levy’s death and the injuring of another policeman, but Kiyan’s family and associates say he was shot by police and lost control of his vehicle, which subsequently hit the policemen. The incident occurred when police arrived at Umm al-Hiran to secure the demolition of homes in the town last Wednesday.

The Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran on January 18, 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich addressed the incident yesterday in a press briefing, focusing on the police version of the events. “You have to understand the area the police were in – the place was dark, a person sitting in a car who was signaled not to move starts to drive,” he said. “Despite all attempts to signal him with a flashlight, to bang on his car and to shoot at his tires, he begins to drive wildly, deviates from the path and runs policemen down.”

Credit: Police

Alsheich said the incident is still being investigated. “We know who shot during the incident and we know where he was hit. There are a lot of rumors and speculation about this incident. I suggest that we all wait until the department for investigating police officers finishes its inquiry.”

Local Bedouin leaders have written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, asking them to release Kiyan’s body. The Adalah Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel contacted the Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine asking it to give the family the results of Kiyan’s autopsy, saying that withholding the information “undermines their right to know the circumstances of his death, particularly given the baseless allegations against the deceased.”

In January 2015, at the funeral of Sami al-Ja'ar -- a young man from the Bedouin town of Rahat who was killed in a drug raid by police -- there were widespread disturbances after a police vehicle entered the vicinity of the cemetery where the funeral was held. The police presence came despite an agreement between municipal authorities and the police that law enforcement officials would not approach the cemetery. In the course of the disturbances, another man, Sami Ziadna, died of heart problem, apparently after inhaling tear gas that police used to disperse the crowd.

Speaking on Monday, Rahat Mayor Talal al-Karniawi said that in a conversation that he had Sunday with district police Maj. Gen. David Bitan, the Rahat mayor and the mayors of the other Bedouin communities had committed to maintain order at the funeral, but their efforts failed. Police also informed Haaretz on Monday that over the past several days, tires were burned on railroad tracks leading toward Dimona to the east.

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