Editorial

Exonerate, Apologize and Compensate

The state must investigate the conduct of senior officials, given the growing suspicion that they falsely accused a man who was shot to death by policemen

FILE PHOTO - The funeral of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, January 24, 2017.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The blood of Yakub Abu al-Kiyan cries out from the ground on which Israeli police officers killed him without cause — and in the past few days, it has been crying out even more loudly. Gidi Weitz and Josh Breiner reported in Haaretz Tuesday that the Justice Ministry department that investigates allegations of police misconduct concluded that Abu al-Kiyan did not intentionally run over a police officer in the January 2017 incident in Umm al-Hiran. Its opinion has the support of Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Affairs Shlomo Lemberger.

Nevertheless, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan decided to close the investigation without determining whether or not Abu al-Kiyan deliberately ran over Erez Levy, who died as a result. Nitzan bowed to pressure from Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, who spoke with him about the issue.

Alsheich doubled down on his disgraceful pronouncement immediately after the incident — that the high-school teacher from Umm al-Hiran was an “evil terrorist” — despite never having any grounds for this assertion. And Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan hastened to follow suit. The state prosecutor then succumbed to the pressure exerted on him, in a grave dereliction of his duties.

The state has no evidence indicating that the incident was a terror attack and Abu al-Kiyan was a terrorist. Therefore, it was obligated to immediately exonerate him fully, apologize for the false accusations hurled at him by the public security minister and the police commissioner and pay compensation to his family. That is the only proper resolution of this blood libel.

Instead, Erdan continued spreading lies as recently as Thursday. After having said “My feeling is that it was an attack” a few days earlier, he declared Thursday that the incident had “characteristics of an attack.”

This cannot be allowed to pass quietly; we cannot consider the affair over and move on. Abu al-Kiyan’s family must appeal the prosecution’s decision, and if the appeal does not succeed it should turn to the High Court of Justice.

The state must not only exonerate Abu al-Kiyan fully and formally. It must also investigate the conduct of the public security minister, the national police commissioner and the state prosecutor, given the growing suspicion that in order to prevent the truth from coming to light they falsely accused a man who was shot to death by policemen. That is the only way to guarantee justice for the Abu al-Kiyan family, the people of Umm al-Hiran and Israeli Bedouin society.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.