Case Closed in Police Attack Against Arab Reporter: 'Perp Unknown'

Video shows cop throwing stun grenade at journalist, but Justice Ministry says was unable to identify the attacker.

Soldiers at a checkpoint in Isawiyah, East Jerusalem, October 16, 2015.
Muammar Awad, AP

The Justice Ministry has closed the case of a policeman who threw a stun grenade at a journalist because it wasn’t able to identify the policeman responsible.

The incident occurred in East Jerusalem’s Isawiyah neighborhood in October 2015. Hana Mahameed, a journalist who works for the Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, was covering the riots outside the home of Fadi Alloun, who was shot to death after stabbing and moderately wounding a 15-year-old Israeli boy. As she was working, she was suddenly hit by a stun grenade.

The incident was captured on camera by a Palestinian television station, and the live broadcast caused an uproar in the Arab world.

Afterward, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) filed a complaint on Mahameed’s behalf to the Justice Ministry department that investigates police malfeasance.

“Mahameed was wearing a helmet and a fluorescent vest that clearly indicated her identity as a journalist during this incident,” he wrote. “Therefore, it wasn’t possible to have been mistaken about her identity. She was standing together with a group of journalists and other media outlets behind the policemen and covering the police forces’ entry into the neighborhood.”

“The footage clearly shows that the throwing of the grenade was unnecessary and didn’t serve any operational need,” the complaint continued. “Moreover, it was in complete violation of the law, court rulings and even the police’s internal directives.”

But in late May, the Justice Ministry informed Jabareen that it was closing the case. “Unfortunately, and despite our efforts, we were unable to identify the perpetrator of the crime against the complainant,” it wrote. “Under these circumstances, there is no choice but to close the case on the grounds of ‘perpetrator unknown.’”

Asked for comment by Haaretz, the ministry issued a lengthier response that reached the same basic conclusion.

“The investigation found that during a disturbance of the peace in Isawiyah, which included the throwing of firebombs by the rioters, use was made of crowd dispersal equipment, including stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets,” it said. “The investigation included examining the police’s operational reports, which gave the details of the incident; watching film footage that documented these incidents visually; and also collecting testimony from the injured journalist.”

Nevertheless, it continued, it wasn’t able to identify the policeman who threw the grenade at Mahameed, because grenades don’t leave ballistic evidence like bullets do, and because so many police were present at the scene.

“After examining the evidence, it became clear that under the circumstances, the police forces had the authority to open fire to disperse the demonstrations and riots,” the ministry’s statement continued. “Once it was determined that this wasn’t necessarily a case of illegal fire, and given the absence of any concrete suspect, it was decided to stop dealing with this matter on the criminal level.”

Mahameed said she wasn’t surprised by this decision, as it “fits with the police’s policy of turning a blind eye to cases of injury to journalists who expose the abuses of the Israeli occupation.”