Arab Worker Freed to House Arrest Hours After Barbaric Police Beating in Tel Aviv

Justice Ministry launches investigation after video showed plain-clothed officers assaulting supermarket employee.

Maysam Abu Alqian,the Israeli Arab who was beaten by off-duty police outside the Tel Aviv supermarket where he worked on May 23, 2016.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Tel Aviv District Court released 19-year-old Maysam Abu Alqian, the supermarket worker who was viciously beaten by off-duty Border Policemen in Tel Aviv Sunday, to house arrest.

Abu Alqian, an Israeli Arab from the town Hura in the northern Negev, was brought to court in the middle of the night by authorities demanding his detention. Despite claims by police that the teen refused to identify himself and had attacked the police officers first, the court released him to his home with certain limitations.

For the past three months, Abu Alqian has worked in Tel Aviv at a supermarket and a Burger King branch, while living in an apartment in the city.

Maysam Abu Alqian, on Monday.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The incident occurred Sunday afternoon at the Super Yuda supermarket on Ibn Gabirol Street, near the Tel Aviv Municipality. Abu Alqian had gone outside when one of the Border Policemen, who was dressed in shorts, demanded that he identify himself. When the teen asked by what authority he was being asked to identify himself and refused to show his identity card, the officer began hitting him, witnesses said.

Witnesses said the three police officers first called in colleagues from their unit who were nearby, and they too began to attack Abu Alqian, hitting him even after he was on the ground and surrounded by a large number of police officers. A police car arrived and Abu Alqian was arrested on suspicions of attacking the police officers and taken to the Tel Aviv area police station.

On Monday, with bruises on his face and a black eye, Abu Alqian spoke about the incident. "I returned from a delivery for the supermarket. I put the cart near the entrance. I wanted to go inside but a man passed me and then came back. He and a young woman stopped me. He wasn't wearing a uniform. I told him, bring someone in uniform. He showed me an ID, but I didn't believe him. After that he brought more people and they started to shove and hit, I tried to defend myself from their blows.

"They grabbed me on the ground," Abu Alqian continued, "and took me to the car. I didn't hit anyone. I don't hit policemen, they need to protect us. Why would I hit a policeman who protects me?"

The police officers called him a "dirty Arab," he said. "They grabbed me on the floor and hit me. One grabbed my throat and I said I have asthma. One of them put his hand in my mouth. And they said I bit him."

Abu Alqian also complained that the police prevented him from receiving medical care for hours after the incident, and did not allow him to speak with his parents.

Maysam’s father, Ahmad Abu Alqian, told Haaretz that he arrived at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv Sunday night at around 10:30 P.M. to visit his son, but police officers kept him from seeing him.

A doctor from the Clalit health maintenance organization who examined Abu Alqian said a preliminary examination showed that he apparently suffered no irreversible injury to his eye, but added that further tests in the hospital are still necessary.

The Justice Ministry unit for investigating the police began collecting evidence and testimony from witnesses on the scene, and will question the officers involved only at a later stage. Abu Alqian’s lawyer said the investigators were expected to take his testimony on Monday.

The Border Police officers who were apparently involved are tasked with locating persons who have illegally entered Israel and are working in Tel Aviv.

Ahmad Abu Alqian told Haaretz that his son has worked in the grocery store for about a year, so that he can save money for his education. “The entire neighborhood knows him and knows that he’s a good guy who isn’t looking for trouble.”  

The response of the Israel Police: "A preliminary investigation shows that Border Police officers identified a young man whom they thought was suspicious and asked him to identify himself. The suspect refused to identify himself while cursing and attacking the police officers, and even bit one of them.

"In order to carry out the arrest, the police officers were required to use force while the suspect continued to attack them violently. As a result of the violence against them, two policemen were taken to Ichilov Hospital for medical treatment, suffering from bruises and bites.

"In keeping with police regulations and as is accepted practice in incidents in which the police are required to use force to carry out their duties, all the materials [concerning the case] will be sent to the [Justice Ministry] unit that investigates police officers."

MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint Arab List, submitted a formal query to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan concerning the incident.

"A young Arab man leaves his workplace to throw out the trash, undercover police officers ask him for his identity card and when he explains to them it is inside [the store], he is murderously beaten and arrested," said Odeh.

"In the middle of the day in Tel Aviv, this is how the police treat Arab citizens, with racism and violence. Instead of serving and taking care of the security of citizens, the police themselves are the ones who are a real threat to our safety," the MK added.