THE CAR DRIVEN by Beduin teacher Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean is seen where it ran into policemen during the fatal January 18 demolition operation in the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
State Attorney Shai Nitzan on Tuesday decided to close the criminal probes of the January 2017 incident in which a policeman and a Beduin were killed surrounding the state's demolition of Beduin residences in the village of Umm al-Hiran in southern Israel.
Nitzan said that after reviewing additional evidence from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), neither he nor the agency could determine whether terror motives were involved on the part of the Beduin.
He said that either way, the police involved in shooting Yacoub Abu al-Kaeean had not committed a crime. Whether the Beduin was innocent or not, the police had reasonably felt endangered by the circumstances in which they acted - even if what occurred was a tragic misunderstanding.
Nitzan did direct the police to further investigate whether the forces involved in killing al-Kaeean should be disciplined, whether they had been properly prepared for the sensitivity of the situation, whether al-Kaeean's medical care had been sufficient and whether there should be consequences for the policemen involved having contradictory accounts.
In February, the Police Investigations Department (PID) filed a report regarding the case.
Abu al-Kaeean was killed in disputed circumstances in January 2017 when the state demolished unrecognized Bedouin residences at Umm al Hiran in the South.
Initially, the police and many politicians labeled Abu al-Kaeean a terrorist when the car he was driving ran over and killed border policeman Erez Levi.
But subsequently, PID was called to probe the police for possibly illegally shooting Abu al-Kaeean, in which case the Bedouin’s vehicle may only have run over Levi after he was shot and possibly already dead, but with the vehicle still in drive.
The February annual PID report refers to the incident as a tragic event in which two families lost loved ones. Also, the report refers to Abu al-Kaeean neutrally as the deceased – all of the references seeming to treat the Bedouin man as innocent.
PID’s probe of the police for shooting Abu al-Kaeean led to fierce tensions with the police, even as its initial recommendations to the state prosecution were not to indict any policemen.
Regarding the incident, the report said, “2017 was characterized by a complex struggle in the PID arena. This was manifested by the probe of Umm al-Hiran which began at the start of the year and which the PID was dealing with all year long.”
Further, the report narrates a sub-dispute which blew up publicly between the PID and the police when PID reopened the probe to review a Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) document regarding the incident.
No explanation has been given to date about how or why the Shin Bet document was not given to PID or why the PID had not reviewed it, but the annual report said that the new document did not add any new radical facts to the case which it was not previously aware of.
The police blasted PID, implying they had tried to bury a document which showed additional terror allegations in the dispute and which could have supported the police narrative of the incident being a terror incident.
Israel Police said in response that they welcome the prosecution’s decision and criticized the PID.
“PID’s findings are similar to the preliminary inquiry that was conducted on the ground by the Israel Police,” a statement issued on Tuesday reads.
“Also here, in the Israel Police, we are sorry that intelligence-related investigation was stopped when the PID started its inquiry.
“Now, when its over, the Israel police can complete its investigation into the case, so it can learn it thoroughly - as it should - after a complicated operation.”
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