Investigation Clears Israeli Officer in Death of Palestinian Cabinet Minister

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An Israeli border guard grabs Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein (L), during a demonstration near Ramallah, on December 10, 2014.Credit: AFP

The police internal investigations unit said on Thursday that it was closing a case against a police officer over an incident involving the death of Palestinian cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ein.

The unit said that the police officer, who was not questioned, was cleared of any wrongdoing. The decision was reported by Army Radio.

Ziad Abu Ein, who served as minister in charge of confronting settlements and the separation barrier, died after a protest at the site of an unauthorized settlement near Ramallah in December 2014.

An altercation ensued between the protesters, led by Abu Ein, and police, who tried to push them back. Both sides pushed, shoved and exchanged curses. Following a confrontation with a policeman, Abu Ein moved aside and collapsed. His death raised the ire of the Palestinian Authority, which blamed Israel.

The unit based its decision on the report of an autopsy conducted at the Abu Dis forensic medicine institute, with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian doctors in attendance.

According to the autopsy, the death was caused by the obstruction of a coronary artery. Doctors found that the bleeding that caused Abu Ein’s death may have been caused by stress.

In their decision, police said that Abu Ein's “the autopsy report and an examination of the composite of events point to the minister finding his death, apparently due to a heart attack, following a stormy incident during which he had a confrontation with a policeman. It is not possible to point to a causal link between the police to the cause of death, for this is about a person who suffered heart failure.

“An examination of the evidence shows that one of the police officers used force, which included pushing alone, of the minister and another person. Force was used after both of these people pushed him and tried to cross through the police roadblock. Under these circumstances, police had the apparent authority to respond to the pushing and in any case, there is no suspicion of any criminal use of force."

The investigations unit said that it is “authorized to investigate only criminal actions, and not suspicions of unprofessional behavior not linked to any criminal suspicions. Since police are entitled to use force, and are also expected in many cases to do so, the police investigations unit does not question police under caution for actions they commit while fulfilling their duties, in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense.”

“Since the policeman could not have known that the Palestinian minister suffers from heart failure or any other medical problem, and since reasonable force was used to maintain public order, and even if someone were to say he deviated, then this is not a deviation that raises any criminal suspicion,” the decision stated.

“Therefore this case ought to be closed for lack of guilt of a criminal nature. Therefore it has been decided, with the agreement of state prosecutors, to shelve the case,” said the unit.

The department added that “this decision does not detract from the authority of professional echelons of the police to examine the way the policeman functioned.”

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