Israeli Officer 'Can't Remember' Why Palestinian Was Left to Die by Side of Road

Palestinian car thief died of dehydration by side of a West Bank road after being discharged from an Israeli hospital, dumped in the middle of the night, shoeless and clad only in a thin hospital gown.

A policewoman in the trial of two colleagues charged with dumping a Palestinian car thief on the side of a road, where he died of dehydration, on Sunday repeatedly responded to questions in court by saying she did not remember.

The testimony phase in the trial over the death of Omar Abu Jariban in 2008 began in Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday. The policewoman, who was the main witness on Sunday, replied more than 100 times to questions by stating that she did not remember, and her testimony in court conflicted with prior statements given to investigators.

Omar Abu Jariban - Mohammed Dabah, B’Tselem
Mohammed Dabah, B’Tselem

Illegal entry

In 2008, Abu Jariban, who had illegally entered Israel from Gaza, was seriously injured after a car he had stolen rolled over on Route 6. He was admitted to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, with broken bones and neurological injuries and then released in a state of confusion and still attached to a catheter.

After space was not found for him in a prison, he was allegedly left by police at the side of Route 45 near the Ofer army camp in the West Bank. His body was found there two days later.

One of the two defendants, Baruch Peretz, was the duty officer at Rehovot police station on the night Abu Jariban was taken to Route 45.

A matter of dispute

Whether Peretz gave an order to take the Palestinian to the highway, transferred such an order from his superiors, or retroactively approved the move is a matter of dispute. The other defendant in the case, Assaf Yakutieli, is accused of actually taking Abu Jariban to the highway.

The main witness on Sunday was Libat Kawi, a Rehovot policewoman who drove the police cruiser used to transfer Abu Jariban to the West Bank road. She was given immunity from prosecution in the case by the Justice Ministry division that investigates police misconduct.

No new light

Her account on the witness stand failed to shed light on the incident. In response to questions, she repeatedly replied that she did not remember. Kawi said she did not remember whether she spoke to Abu Jariban, why they went where they did, who gave the order, or where she stopped to have the Palestinian get out of the cruiser.

She also said she didn't remember when she joined the Israel Police. Kawi said that Abu Jariban was brought in and out of the vehicle four times that night, but said she never noticed if it was done by force or of his own accord.

Her account also conflicted with statements she made previously to investigators. In 2008, for example, she said that Abu Jariban had been let out at a lit location on the road, but on Sunday she said the spot was dark. She did testify on Sunday that she thought the detainee would have been discovered after sunrise.

The lawyers for the two policemen on trial attempted to shift the court's attention to the alleged responsibility of hospital officials for releasing Abu Jariban, but the judge in the case said the focus of the trial was the criminal charges against the defendants.

Igor Bleiber, a nurse at the hospital did testify, however, that the orthopedic department examined Abu Jariban to determine whether he required surgery for a pelvic fracture. He said that when it was found that surgery was unnecessary, it was decided that he should be discharged, although no reexamination of his head injuries was carried out.