Israel's High Court Orders State to Release Body of Bedouin Driver Who Ran Over Cops

Top court rejects police demands, rules funeral will be held during daytime and number of attendees will not be limited.

Demonstrators protesting home demolitions hold a banner with a picture of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, January 23, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

The High Court of Justice ordered the state to release the body of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, a Bedouin driver who ran over a police officer and was shot dead during clashes last week over home demolitions in a Negev village.

Police and the family of al-Kiyan had failed to reach an agreement on transferring his body to the family for burial. The family had refused conditions set by police for the body’s release, which included a financial guarantee and limiting the number of people at the funeral.

"We order the police to release the body of the deceased to the hands of the family," Supreme Court Judges Isaac Amit and Uri Shoham wrote in a majority opinion. The funeral will be held during the day, and not after nightfall as the police requested, and the number of attendees will not be limited, the court ruled.

Judge Amit wrote that they were aware that the tension surrounding the incident "could be used by extremist elements," but added: "the family of the deceased belongs to the Bedouin community, who are law-abiding Israeli citizens and some of them even serve in security forces."

Judge Noam Sohlberg opposed the majority opinion.

Police claim that Kiyan deliberately committed a vehicle-ramming attack and was responsible for the death of a police officer, Erez Levy, and for wounding 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.

Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, praised the decision, saying that "police allegations in this care are part of the police's culture of lies in relation to Arab society in Israel. Police continue to refer to Arabs as the enemy, and the judgement makes clear that there is no legal basis for the police's conduct."

Israeli Arabs took to the roads on Monday to protest the fatal shooting of a Bedouin man during clashes with the police last week and the state’s ongoing demolition of illegally built homes in their communities.

A convoy of over 200 vehicles snarled traffic on the main highway leading to Jerusalem as it slowly headed for the government compound in the capital.