In wake of Haaretz expose on Umm al-Hiran police killing, Adalah sends urgent demands to AG

Israeli police gunned down Bedouin math teacher in January 2017; police actions and subsequent investigation found riddled with flaws, conflicts of interest, and obstruction of justice.

Just a day after the Haaretz newspaper revealed a series of flaws, conflicts of interest, and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the 2017 Israeli police killing of a Bedouin man, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel has sent an urgent letter to the Israeli attorney general demanding immediate access to all investigatory materials and the opening of an independent, neutral examination into the critically-flawed investigation.


Israeli police shot and killed 50-year-old Bedouin math teacher Ya'akub Abu al-Qi'an during a large-scale house demolition operation in the Naqab (Negev) desert village of Umm al-Hiran in January 2017.


Eyewitness testimony from the scene and visual evidence – including a video released by Israeli police – all clearly indicate that officers opened fire on Abu al-Qi'an as he drove through his village, despite the fact that he posed no danger to anyone. As a result of the gunshot wounds, Abu al-Qi'an lost control of his vehicle and ran into police officers, resulting in the death of one.


Testimony also indicates that Abu al-Qi'an lay wounded in his vehicle at the scene for three hours while police officers prevented paramedics from providing urgent care or evacuating him. As a direct result of this withholding of urgent medical care, Abu al-Qi'an died in his vehicle.


On Tuesday, 12 June 2018, Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen sent an urgent letter to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit reviewing the extensive series of investigative failures and calling on him to act immediately on the matter.


Adalah, acting as legal representation of the Abu al-Qi'an family, filed requests to Israel's Abu Kabir Forensic Institute and to the Justice Ministry's Police Investigations Department (PID) the day of the killing demanding the opening of a PID investigation, a copy of the autopsy report, and to receive ongoing progress reports.


However, Adalah's requests made on that initial day and the multiple requests made during the subsequent year and a half were all either denied or ignored by Israeli authorities – despite the fact that it is the legal right of the Abu al-Qi'an family and Adalah to receive such materials.


On 1 May 2018, Israeli State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan issued a press release in which he announced that the investigation revealed there is "no reasonable suspicion that police officers involved in the incident committed any criminal acts." Regarding Israeli police allegations that Abu al-Qi'an intentionally harmed officers with his vehicle, Nitzan left this question open and announced that this "cannot be answered with a high degree of certainty."


Following this announcement, Adalah appealed twice more in order to obtain the findings of the investigation but the PID denied the requests.


Haaretz: Police failures, no intentional attack


On 11 June 2018, Haaretz published an article revealing that a Shin Bet officer who investigated the killing of Abu al-Qi'an concluded that police failed in their handling of the operation. The Shin Bet officer also ruled out the likelihood that Abu al-Qi'an had intentionally killed the police officer in a car-ramming attack.


Just a day later, Haaretz published a second article which revealed that "a police doctor was present at the scene of the shooting incident in Umm al-Hiran last year and failed for hours to provide care to the wounded driver [Abu al-Qi'an]." The police physician alleged, in contradiction of other testimonies, that she did not see Abu al-Qi'an at the scene and therefore did not provide medical care. Nevertheless, the physician was not questions by PID.


The Haaretz coverage also revealed that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh intervened – in a clear conflict of interest – in the investigation and even influenced its outcome and the eventual conclusions of the state prosecutor. Both Erdan and Alsheikh made unsubstantiated statements as early as the day of the killing that Abu al-Qi'an was involved in an ISIS-inspired plan to attack Israeli police.


Adalah maintains that this series of fundamental flaws and failures point to a number of grave suspicions: 1) attempts by Israeli authorities to obstruct justice and to influence the outcome of the investigation; 2) the state prosecutor released the conclusions of the investigation while ignoring the full factual, evidentiary basis to which he had access; 3) the existence of clear conflicts of interest on the part of those conducting the investigation; 4) the existence of external political considerations introduced by Public Security Minister Erdan and Police Commissioner Alsheikh influencing the results of the investigation; 5) the withholding of necessary and essential information stemming from the investigation from the Abu al-Qi'an family and from the public.


Adalah detailed three urgent demands in its letter to AG Mandeblit:


  1. Immediately hand over all investigatory materials, including the report filed by the Shin Bet officer and Abu al-Qi'an's autopsy report;
  2. Order the establishment of a comprehensive, independent, neutral examination into the investigation of the police killing of Abu al-Qi'an by Israeli authorities;
  3. That any future appeal filed by Adalah relating to this case be considered by the attorney general and not by the state prosecutor, of whom there is already substantive suspicion of conflict of interest.


CLICK HERE to read Adalah's urgent letter [Hebrew]