Case Closed Against Policeman Suspected of Killing Bedouin Youth in 2015

Sami al-Ja’ar, 20, died in a police raid in Rahat; Father had been told he would have more time to notify authorities of his objections to shutting the file.

A poster commemorating Sami al-Ja’ar, courtesy of his family.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Justice Ministry has shut an investigation into a police officer who shot and killed Sami al-Ja’ar, a 20-year-old from the Bedouin city of Rahat, during a raid against drug dealers in January 2015.

The decision was taken despite the victim's father having been told in December that a decision would wait until the family submitted an explanation as to why the case ought not to be closed. 

Al-Ja'ar's father, Khaled, said he had found out late about the probe being shut before they could respond, and is concerned it may now be difficult to persuade the authorities to prosecute the officer who shot his son.

Al-Ja’ar's killing led to violent protests. A mourner was shot to death at the young man's funeral. Arab towns held a daylong solidarity strike. 

Al-Ja’ar had been fatally shot during a roundup of suspected drug dealers in Rahat. Police have named Ja'ar as one of the suspects they were after for alleged trafficking in weapons and narcotics. 

Rahat residents threw stones at the police in demand that they release the suspects they had arrested, and officers opened fire in response to dispel the crowd. Three police officers were also injured in that incident.

A month later, five officers were questioned and following a covert investigation an officer was arrested on suspicion of opening fire against the rules of engagement. The officer was said to have admitted to shooting at Al-Ja’ar.

A statement released by an investigations unit said the officer changed his account of the incident several times and gave false testimony. The officer was taken off active duty and given an administrative job pending a conclusion of the case. 

Khaled al-Ja’ar, a retired police officer himself, and his lawyer, met in December with the head of police investigations department, Uri Carmel, in Jerusalem. Khaled said they told him there was not enough evidence to prosecute the officer.  Carmel told himthe state prosecutor had agreed to close the investigation, pending a review of any comments submitted by the family’s lawyer.

The department in charge of investigating police said the case said Ja'ar and his lawyer were offered copies of the evidence so he could file an appeal, and that it was made clear to him the department was open to reconsidering any claim.