A police detective has been charged with beating a Palestinian minor to get him to confess to throwing rocks at cars driven by Israelis. Despite the seriousness of the offense, the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers charged the detective with a lesser assault crime.
The incident came to light when a voice recording of the interview-under-duress was found in the police case files given to the suspect’s lawyer. In the recording, detective Yehuda Gigi can allegedly be heard beating the Palestinian, who was around 17 years old. The recording was presumably accidental. The lawyers of the boy and a cousin who was arrested with him raised the matter of the assault after listening to the recording, resulting in the complaint to the ministry’s unit for investigations of police.
According to the charge sheet filed in Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court in January, in November 2016 Mohammed Shakir of Salfit, a Palestinian town adjacent to the settlement of Ariel, was arrested on suspicion of throwing rocks. The investigation file indicates that Shakir and a cousin decided to throw rocks after quarreling with their parents. “We wanted to be caught by the army to get attention from our parents,” they told detectives, adding that they acted out of boredom. The teens walked along Route 5 near the Ariel intersection at night and began throwing rocks at passing cars. Military security cameras recorded the two throwing stones. Afterward they sat down, in what they later said was part of their plan to be arrested by the army.
The two were handed over to the police. Shakir was questioned at the police station in Kadima by Gigi, who according to his own indictment tried to force Shakir to confess to trying to hit Israeli-owned vehicles. When he refused, Gigi roughly shoved Shakir off the chair, yelled at him to get up and slapped his face when he stood up. As a result, Shakir gave Gigi the desired confession. “I confessed because he beat me,” the teen told his lawyer, only after she asked him about it when she listened to the recording. Shakir and his cousin were charged in Samaria Military Court with throwing rocks, convicted in a plea bargain and sentenced to 10 months in prison.
“The security cameras showed that they didn’t throw rocks at cars and even stopped throwing when cars passed. They didn’t mean to hurt anyone. When [Shakir] told [Gigi] he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, the detective tried to get a different answer out of him using violence,” relates Majdulin Agbaria, a lawyer who represented Shakir and his cousin.
“He was beaten for no reason,” Shakir’s father told Zakaria Sadeh, field research coordinator with Rabbis for Human Rights. “He was afraid to complain,” said the father, who added that the family plans to sue the police for damages.
Despite the gravity of Gigi’s alleged actions, he was charged only with simple assault, which carried a maximum punishment of two years in prison. The detective could have been charged with a number of more serious offenses, including aggravated assault, that could result in prison terms of three or four years.
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Gigi was not suspended from active duty, either. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich faced criticism by a court for his policy of not suspending or taking other significant measures against officers who have been charged with crimes.
In response, the Israel Police said that “significant measures” had been taken against Gigi, and that he was reassigned to a desk position. “With the completion of legal proceedings against him and in keeping with its results, his service in the force will be reexamined.”
Gigi declined to comment.