Palestinian Acquitted of Attempted Murder After Israel Police Botch Probe

Shin Bet says defendant questioned from hospital bed, confessed to crimes in a manner that demonstrated a nationalist motive, and that his medical status ruled out a reconstruction at the scene.

A Palestinian construction worker was recently acquitted in an Israeli military court of five counts of attempted murder due to mistakes made by police investigators, which the Military Prosecution Service attempted to hide.

On the day in question - in late December 2008 or January 2009 - Mahmoud Injas allegedly struck his employer at a Modi'in Ilit construction site in the head with a hammer, causing injuries that left the victim permanently and severely disabled. Injas then allegedly stabbed four other individuals with a utility knife before he was shot by the West Bank settlement's armed volunteer unit.

Modi'in Ilit attack - November 2011

Injas was interrogated by police and the Shin Bet security service, and later charged with five counts of attempted murder.

Prosecutors argued that Injas' actions were motivated by Operation Cast Lead, the military operation Israel was pursuing in the Gaza Strip at the time of the incident. The defense claimed Injas assaulted his employer because the man owed him money.

A 3-kilogram hammer found at the scene was introduced into evidence as the alleged weapon, but photographs from the scene showing other hammers were never submitted to the defense.

Neither the hammer allegedly used in the attack nor the other hammers found at the scene were tested for fingerprints or blood residue. Police were unable to determine which weapon was actually used in the crime. The police crime scene technician who processed the evidence testified that he had indicated the need for laboratory testing but that it was never carried out. In addition, the technician only estimated the weights of the various hammers rather than actually weighing them.

Last week judges in the Judea Military Court acquitted Injas of attempted murder and convicted him of assault. In their written verdict they cited a "reasonable possibility that the assault was carried out with a small hammer that was at the scene" and noted that no laboratory evidence of blood on the hammer was introduced.

Judge Maj. Hilit Bar On-Biber added several paragraphs outlining investigators' mistakes, including their failure to ask the defendant to identify the hammer used in the attack.

"Despite the seriousness of the crime ... no reconstruction of the incident was carried out that would have involved bringing the defendant back to the scene and having him point out the weapon and what he did with it," she wrote. "I would have expected in such a serious case to find a thorough preliminary inquiry of the suspect with regard to the identity of the assault weapon, and not just a single, very laconic remark by the suspect."

The Judea and Samaria District Police said in a statement that it gathered numerous pieces of evidence that became the basis for the indictment

The Shin Bet said in a statement that the defendant was questioned from his hospital bed, that he confessed to the crimes in a manner that demonstrated a nationalist motive, and that his medical status at the time ruled out a reconstruction at the scene.