Negev Mayor Appeals to President to Prevent Jailing of Policeman

The mayor of the Negev town of Omer has written President Shimon Peres requesting a pardon for a police officer convicted and, and soon to be jailed, for serious offenses against Arabs.

Pini Badash wrote Peres that sending the policeman to jail will prevent police from fighting vehicular crime by Bedouin in the Negev.

Eitan Ovadiah, a traffic officer, was arrested in 2003 by the Police Investigations Department in the Justice Ministry.

The Beersheba District Court convicted Ovadiah on six charges, including firing at a vehicle that did not stop when instructed; destroying the car's windshield after the driver fled on foot; stealing the radio from the car and and puncturing the tires; forcing a Bedouin driver to tear up his car insurance certificate as fake, although Ovadiah had no way of knowing whether it was or not; and falsely writing a ticket for a driver running a red light, although Ovadiah was not present at the scene.

Ovadiah received a 15-month jail sentence and a six-month suspended sentence, which he is due to begin serving in about two weeks.

Badash asked Peres to pardon Ovadiah because of the difficulties of dealing on a daily basis "with the phenomenon of serious criminality of Bedouin on the roads" and because such a sentence will make it impossible for the police to do their job in the south.

Badash also wrote Peres that Ovadiah had "already received his punishment" because he was discharged from the police force and is now penniless.