The spirit of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan – an Israeli citizen, a teacher by profession, who was shot by policemen in 2017 during the demolition of the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran, then left to die without medical attention and later portrayed as a terrorist who had deliberately run over policeman Erez Levy – will continue to haunt Israel’s justice system until his name is cleared.
An investigation by the Shin Bet security service and the unit for investigating police misconduct at the Ministry of Justice (Mahash) has determined that this was not a terror incident. But former Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich has never retracted his blood libel against Abu al-Kiyan; nor has then-State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who backed the commissioner. The mendacious claim by former Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan, who rushed to claim that this was a terror attack, continues to reverberate.
The affair, accompanied by a string of failures to this day, will not go away until justice is done to the memory and family of Abu al-Kiyan. Moreover, as if enough damage hasn’t been done, Abu al-Kiyan is being used cynically as a tool in the campaign to delegitimize the state prosecution apparatus, Nitzan and Alsheich, as part of a Bibi-ist campaign serving the criminal defendant now contending for the prime minister’s job again.
In Friday’s (Hebrew) Haaretz, Uri Carmel, who headed Mahash from 2011 to 2018, reviewed the extensive evidence which left no reason to suspect Abu al-Kiyan. He said that the evidence was provided in detail, at the recommendation of his unit, but was not presented in court by state prosecutors during hearings concerning a petition filed by Abu al-Kiyan’s family. “Thus, none of the exculpatory evidence that was collected was related to, in the court’s ruling,” he wrote.
Carmel confirms the claim that investigators, intelligence officers, lawyers, the directors of Mahash, the Shin Bet person in charge of the investigation and the deputy state prosecutor for criminal affairs all concluded that Abu al-Kiyan’s actions were not malevolent.
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All this does not prevent Nitzan from claiming even now that it was not his role to determine whether the citizen was guilty or not (Haaretz, August 1). The most Nitzan would do was to say that it was impossible to determine Abu al-Kiyan’s culpability “with a great degree of certainty.” This claim leaves a cloud of doubt hovering over Abu al-Kiyan and does not clear his name. Carmel describes how Nitzan undermined the campaign to purge Abu al-Kiyan’s name even when the Justice Ministry’s oversight czar, Judge David Rozen, looked into how this case was handled, at the request of the minister of justice. Nitzan argued that the affair was under consideration by the Supreme Court. The absence of the recommendations made by Mahash precluded the Supreme Court justices from dealing with the clearing of Abu al-Kiyan’s name.
There is no doubt regarding Abu al-Kiyan’s innocence. State prosecutors must clear his name, apologize to his family and compensate them, putting an end to this shameful affair.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.