Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Monday informed a police officer that he would likely be indicted for beating Ethiopian-Israeli soldier Damas Pakada in April 2015 - a shocking and dramatic reversal of his predecessor Yehuda Weinstein's June 2015 decision to close the case.
Weinstein had said that Pakada had been at least partially at fault for the altercation and had cleared both sides of any charges.
In contrast, Mandelblit said that while he would give the policeman a pre-indictment hearing, he was leaning toward an indictment.
The decision follows a petition to the High Court of Justice directing the attorney-general's office to reconsider the earlier decision.
Pakada and his lawyer have said that the attack was “an incidence of racism-motivated police violence,” adding that it was “among the most shocking seen in Israel and recent times.” Video footage of the April 2015 assault by the police officer on Pakada quickly went viral, causing outrage within Israel’s marginalized Ethiopian community.
Shortly after the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with Pakada to personally apologize. The officer responsible for the beating was suspended after the video, taken by a witness, was posted online.
In the video, Pakada can be seen walking a bike on a residential street the police had blocked off because of a suspicious package. The soldier tries to keep walking and is pushed back once, and then a second time before the officer knees him, punches him in the face and puts his hands around his neck momentarily. The soldier appears to throw a punch at the officer after he was struck.
The officer and a volunteer then throw him to the ground in a vacant lot and continue to push him as he gets to his feet and refuses to stay down. At the end of the video, after more officers come and break up the fracas, the soldier can be seen picking up a rock and rearing back as if to throw it at the officer, who appears to have his hand on his sidearm. He drops the rock and the video cuts out.
“On the surface, even though it has not been extensively examined, the recording appears to show unacceptable behavior that strays from the behavioral norms we require in the organization. The officers have been suspended and the evidence was immediately passed to the department for investigation by the police. A decision on the future service of the officers will be made depending on the department’s findings,” Tel Aviv police said in a statement at the time of the incident.
The incident caused violent protests to erupt in cities across Israel, such as in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv, as an anti-police brutality protest by Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent spun out of control, with protesters throwing rocks and bottles at police, who fired stun grenades and charged the square repeatedly on horseback.Dan Eisenbud and Ben Hartman contributed to this report