High Court surprises, issues ruling in favor of US hiker’s family

The state has until January 6 to continue to oppose questioning Rothstein or accept the Newman family position that he must be questioned.

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January 1, 2019 18:58
2 minute read.
MARK AND ELLEN NEWMAN with Ariel at his high-school graduation a few months before his death.

MARK AND ELLEN NEWMAN with Ariel at his high-school graduation a few months before his death.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The High Court has issued a surprising conditional order to the prosecution demanding it explain the failure to question a witness in the 2014 death of an American hiker, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The decision was handed down last month.

On November 8, the Post reported that the state prosecution asked the High Court to close the probe into the 2014 death of Ariel Newman, after taking new testimony which the court said it must collect from one of the witnesses on the hike.

The court was expected to accept the prosecution’s recommendation and close the case.

But instead of re-closing the case as expected, the court granted the request of Newman’s family and their lawyer, Amos Fried, to put pressure on the prosecution and question an entirely different witness, who was yet to be questioned, Naftali Rothstein.

The state has until January 6 to continue to oppose questioning Rothstein or accept the Newman family position that he must be questioned.

The negligent homicide investigation related to the unexplained death of Newman, 18, a student from Great Neck, New York, during a hike in the Judean Desert on September 10, 2014. It revolved on former officials at the now-defunct Mechinat Yeud program for Diaspora youth, although Rothstein was one of those officials, he was never questioned by police.

Previously, following exclusive reports in the Post, Deputy Chief Prosecutor for Criminal Affairs Shlomo (Mumi) Lemberger ordered police to reopen their investigation twice to address the new evidence brought forward.

However, Lemberger stuck to the final decision to close the case in December, leading the hiker’s family to file a petition to the High Court.

On October 7, the High Court told the prosecution to reopen the case a third time to check new testimony by a fellow hiker of Newman’s, Mayer Horowitz.

Ultimately, it appeared that even after the police questioned Horowitz, the High Court would close the case a final time since Horowitz’s testimony was mixed, which was why the order regarding Rothstein was unexpected.

However, Fried told the court in response to the prosecution’s desire to close the case, that it could not be closed without first acknowledging the failure to take Rothstein’s testimony.

The Newman family have alleged since the start of the case that police were slow and negligent in probing the incident.

In the past, those accused of negligent homicide in the case have said that attacks on the police and prosecution were problematic as they showed a lack of understanding of the high level of professionalism among officials.

Those accused have said that the police questioned a large number of witnesses who contradicted the Newman family’s narrative.

They also claimed that the police had closer knowledge of those witnesses than Fried had from merely reading transcripts of the questioning.

Moreover, they have said that no one knows exactly why Newman died since there was no autopsy and there was a chance that the issue was genetic.

There has also been criticism of the Post for allegedly being overly friendly to the Newman family narrative, with some arguing that the public should know that those being accused of negligence in the case also had families that should be considered.

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